Economic recovery is necessary for Ukraine’s reconstruction, says Deputy Justice Minister
In Ukraine, the reconstruction of production facilities such as oil depots or agricultural facilities is a top priority to get the economy back on its feet, as this would allow it to resume its exports and have some financial income. That’s what Ukraine’s Deputy Justice Minister told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview.
Iryna Mudra is the Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine in charge of Asset Forfeiture, Accountability and Reconstruction.
Although the war is still ongoing, the reconstruction of Ukraine is already planned. What are the priorities of this reconstruction?
It was the production facilities that were destroyed — the oil depots, everything related to agriculture and the production of agricultural products. First, the economy must be revived to make it work. For production to work, we can continue to export, which also allows us to earn money. [Deuxièmement, il s’agit de] housing citizens who have found themselves homeless. There are many internally displaced people who need housing, and we need to do this as soon as possible.
Further EU membership and financial assistance to Ukraine are strongly linked to reforms in the country. One of the essential conditions for Ukraine to maintain its EU candidate status is to carry out judicial reform which introduces a set of measures aimed at improving the Ukrainian judicial system. What are Ukraine’s current reform priorities and potential timeline?
Our time is divided as follows: half the time we fight the war, the other half we work on the reforms. President [Volodymyr Zelensky] has set very ambitious tasks for the government: to carry out reforms as quickly as possible. We didn’t have the inclination or the ability to drag things out for years, so we started moving.
For [le ministère de la Justice], judicial reform and justice reform are essential. With regard to judicial reform, one of the main objectives is to restore the work of the Supreme Council of Justice [autorité judiciaire ukrainienne dont les fonctions consistent notamment à soumettre au président des propositions sur la nomination des juges, la libération des juges, l’examen des cas d’infractions, NDLR] in order to train professional and transparent judicial personnel.
In addition, before the end of 2022, we must pass a law to select judges of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine (CCU). We understand that the CCU, which is the highest judicial body, must also be formed [et relancée] as soon as possible.
We need to continue reforms of the law enforcement system, the Office of the Attorney General. We must — and have already begun to — implement reform that will reduce the influence of the oligarchs, those people with money and other abilities, over the country’s economy and security.
For this, we have created a register of oligarchs. We must pass a law which will reduce the influence of the latter and will allow the introduction of a complete procedure of control of these people so that the media are not monopolized by certain oligarchs.
The issues of judicial reform in Ukraine and the appointment of the heads of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) have long been of concern to Ukraine as well as to Western partners. What has the war changed in these processes?
We intended to appoint both the head of SAPO and the head of NABU. The war changed the plans somewhat, and not just in terms of missions.
We understand the concerns of European colleagues and colleagues from other continents, and the President has also made this a priority. These are bodies elected through a contest, and the contest has begun. It should be over in a few days, maybe a few weeks. The war changed the timetable in this regard, but [le processus] ends.
President [Volodymyr] Zelensky blocked Ukraine’s security chief and prosecutor general from performing their duties, raising concerns among Western supporters about the rule of law. Can you give us your feedback on this?
This information also surprised us during a business trip — we learned the same from the information. But there is no breach of the rule of law here. As the two procedures [de révocation] must pass through the Verkhovna Rada, they must receive, or not, the support of parliamentarians.
These officials were not fired by the president, they were suspended — this is a perfectly legitimate legal process. However, the dismissal or not must go through the Verkhovna Rada and, as far as I know, the presentation to the Verkhovna Rada today will take into account both procedures [pour l’instant, le Parlement ukrainien a voté pour la révocation d’Iryna Venediktova en tant que procureure générale et d’Ivan Bakanov en tant que chef des services de sécurité].
The European Commission has proposed the RebuildUkraine reconstruction platform, which is fully owned by the Ukrainian government, but Brussels is asking for certain reforms. How should cooperation between the Ukrainian government and the European Commission work in practice?
We want foreign experts to give us practical help, in addition to financial help. We understand the methods, tools and mechanisms for receiving grants, but the more foreign experts participate, the more the funds will be justified and transparent. The expertise of our partners is therefore very important.
The development of the damage assessment methodology, ie how we estimated the losses, is also essential. The Kyiv School of Economics (KSE), together with the World Bank, is developing this damage assessment methodology so that we can openly tell our partners that we need such amount of money and that everything is transparent.
The second step will be to establish a register, where these funds will be sent in priority. Our government does this by consulting with our financial donors. But there are almost daily communications at government level with foreign and European partners. The Ukrainian government and our donors are interested in transparent and effective cooperation.
How much funding will Ukraine need for reconstruction?
Our government presented a reconstruction plan in Lugano, Switzerland. This plan aims to restore Ukraine and follow the path set by the European Union to meet European standards [sur la voie d’une future] membership. This includes rebuilding [ou la construction] certain infrastructures, even roads. For this, the government has already announced that it needs 750 billion dollars [732 milliards d’euros]. However, it is one thing to rebuild the destroyed roads according to the standards that existed in our country, quite another to do it according to EU standards.
I saw in the KSE report for May that the losses [directes et indirectes] reached $600 billion [586 milliards d’euros]. [Les pertes directes au mois de mai augmentent chaque jour — les infrastructures seules ont atteint environ 100 milliards de dollars, soit 98 milliards d’euros]. Added to this is [la reconstruction des] residential facilities, hospitals, schools, educational institutions and environmental damage.
Where can this money be found?
My main objective at the Justice Department is to seize Russian assets, because Russia has started the war and must pay with its own assets. But we understand that this will not be enough. We have to look for other ways. These can be voluntary contributions, country donations, financial aid or loans. The government has a vision and consults the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and other financial institutions. A recovery fund can be fed by funds from other sources.
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