Ukraine's Governance: What Should Be Changed within EU Integration?

December 1, 2023
Ukraine belongs in the European family, governed by democratic rules and principles. But how does Ukraine’s way of governing compare to that of the EU?
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UkraineWorld spoke to Valentyn Malynovsky, Doctor of Political Science. Key points in our brief, #UkraineWorldAnalysis

What should public administration reform look like in the context of European integration?

The management system of the Ministries remains centralised, and its leadership is overburdened with organisational and administrative functions that should be delegated to lower-level managers.

Another issue is the lack of unified organisational rules or criteria for supporting state policy implementation.

Ministries perform a significant number of state policy implementation functions, limiting their ability to formulate high-quality state policy.

Another issue is that the existing approaches to defining job responsibilities are formal, and the lack of an evaluation methodology and a job classification system creates an imbalance in civil servant remuneration.

The pay structure remains a mystery, with a variable component of around 50%. This has resulted in a dangerous social stratification in the remuneration of senior officials, who are paid at European levels, and the middle and lower civil service, which is on the verge of extinction, receiving low pay, which is often equal to that of unskilled workers.

The main directions and priorities for public administration reform are outlined in the Public Administration Reform Strategy for 2022-2025, approved in 2021:

  • Strategic principles of public administration reform;
  • Strategic planning, coordination of policy formulation and implementation;
  • Civil service and human resource management;
  • Accountability - organisation, transparency, oversight;
  • Administrative procedures, administrative services and e-government.

What are the SIGMA Principles of Public Administration and how is Ukraine putting them into practice? 

The European standards of good administration are formulated in the SIGMA Principles of Public Administration document, which contains a system of principles and criteria for assessing public administration.

The public administration reform strategy is based on common values, namely:

a) adherence to democratic principles

b) the rule of law

c) good governance.

Article 3 of the EU-Ukraine Agreement defines good governance, along with the rule of law, the fight against corruption, the fight against various forms of transnational organised crime and terrorism, the promotion of sustainable development and effective multilateralism, as one of the main principles for strengthening relations between the parties.

Good governance is a key factor in a country's competitiveness and economic development and a prerequisite for European integration.

Are there any EU practices that could be worth considering, given the context and needs of Ukraine?

France's experience, whose officials are regarded as among the best in the world, is worthy of consideration. In France, the fundamental principle of public service - competition - is in effect, with employees who perform better are promoted.

It is important to note that only employees with the necessary professional training and management education are permitted to hold the highest positions. To that end, the National School of Administration (ENA) was founded in 1945 as an elite educational institution for training senior civil servants.

Practitioners, rather than full-time academics, make up the majority of ENA's teaching staff. A similar approach is used in Poland, where the National School of Public Administration, based on the French model, plays a leading role in staffing managerial positions.

The division of powers between the political (minister and his deputy) and administrative (state secretary of the ministry and ministry staff) blocks has been underway since 2017. The ministries have established directorates that cover all areas for which the ministry is responsible.

The ministries continued to be gradually deprived of their non-essential functions of providing administrative services, managing state property, and exercising state supervision (control).

However, some ministries continue to perform a significant amount of these functions, which reduces their capacity to formulate public policy, and central executive bodies subordinated to the ministry continue to focus their activities on drafting regulations instead of implementing public policy.

Positive example includes the practice of the Ministry of Health, which established the National Health Service. This allowed the ministry to significantly free itself from a whole range of uncharacteristic functions to, therefore, focus on strategic planning, ensuring the formation of high-quality state policy, and monitoring and evaluating the results of its implementation.

How to combat the politicisation of the civil service?

According to European principles, the civil service should be professional, honest, politically neutral, merit-based and citizen-oriented. The Law of Ukraine "On Civil Service" (2015) depoliticised the civil service institution at the legislative level, distinguishing between civil service positions and political positions.

This was confirmed by the SIGMA experts' conclusions that Ukraine complies with many European principles, in particular in terms of completeness and clarity of legislative regulation of the civil service, and the distinction between civil service positions, political positions and other positions in state bodies.

However, the removal of heads of local state administrations, their first deputies and deputies from the scope of the Law "On Civil Service" in 2017 was a setback for the principle of political neutrality of the civil service.

This is due to the fact that these leaders were once again permitted to be members of political parties, they were no longer required to adhere to the provisions of Ukraine's "On Civil Service" on political impartiality, and instead of open competitive selection, political and subjective principles of appointment to these positions were reintroduced.

Daria Synhaievska
Journalist/Analyst at UkraineWorld