Ukraine is believed to be a corrupt country making it difficult to join the European Union. Photo/Reuters
KIEV – Widespread corruption in Ukraine could hamper Kiev’s bid for EU membership. This was disclosed by a Western European diplomat to Politico.
The diplomat said Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s efforts to tackle the issue had also worried Brussels.
Ukraine applied for membership in the European Union last February, and was officially granted candidate status four months later.
Although European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is expected to address the enlargement issue in her state of the union address on Wednesday, and EU Council President Charles Michel has pledged to accept all candidate countries by 2030, Ukraine’s efforts to move forward could be hampered by rampant corruption.
“Ukraine is a very corrupt country,” an unnamed Western European diplomat told Politico.
“We want to send a positive signal to Ukraine, but things like proposals to give (Ukrainian) intelligence services more authority in dealing with corruption could send the wrong message.”
The proposal was put forward by Zelensky last month. Following the purge of allegedly corrupt officials in Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, Zelensky announced that he would task the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) with investigating and prosecuting corruption cases, thereby taking investigative powers away from the country’s various anti-corruption agencies.
The SBU reports only to Zelensky. Representatives of anti-corruption agencies in Ukraine told Politico last month that by making the SBU the only body permitted to investigate these cases, Zelensky essentially gave himself the power to decide which corrupt officials should be prosecuted and which should be protected.
There is precedent for this fear, says the head of the Center for Anti-Corruption Action (ACAC), Vitaly Shabunin. Oleg Tatarov, deputy head of Zelensky’s office, was under investigation by Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) last year, when the case was unexpectedly transferred to the SBU. “He was buried there,” said Shabunin. “Now the (Zelensky) office wants to implement it.”
Ukraine has for many years been ranked one of the most corrupt countries in the world. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, in 2022, the country will rank 116th out of 180.
In addition to corruption issues, disputes between Ukraine and European countries over agriculture could also hamper Kiev’s bid for membership. Ukrainian farmers could undercut their European counterparts with cheap grain exports, meaning that the EU will likely have to reform its Common Agricultural Policy if Ukraine is to be accepted.