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Ukraine’s way to local self-governance reforms

1 March 2019

The Vice Prime Minister and Minister of regional development of Ukraine, Gennadiy Zubko, was in Brussels on Tuesday 26 February to meet with European Union officials, including Commissioner Johannes Hahn, responsible for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations and Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete in charge of Climate action and energy.

PLATFORMA had the privilege to meet and exchange with Vice Prime Minister Zubko at the occasion of a roundtable on “Ukraine’s Decentralisation Process” organised by the East West Institute for a delegation of the Ukrainian Mayors: Yana Litvinova, Mayor of Starobelsk, Lugansk region; Sergii Mazur, Mayor of Balta, Odessa region; Andrii Silych, Mayor of Ugledar, Donetsk region and Oleh Omelyan, Mayor of Kamianka-Buzka, Lviv region. The discussion aimed at presenting the lessons learnt from three years of decentralisation and identifying further assistance from the European Union on Ukraine’s way to local self-governance reforms.

The Vice Prime Minister presented the positive evolution of the decentralisation reforms and in particular the amalgamation of 878 communities (Hramada) as of February 2019. They were 705 in 2018 and the Government plans to reach 1289 amalgamated communities by the end of the year. This process allowed to increase local budgets, the consolidation of local public services and the development of the competences of Ukraine’s local governments.

The Association of Ukrainian Cities confirms that “Since the beginning of the reform, own local government resources of territorial communities increased more than 3 times. This provided opportunities to increase the level of local budget capital expenditures. In 2018 alone, they increased by 27%.”

However the association points out several challenges to meet before calling the reform a complete success, in particular the lack of national funding for the new mandate delegated to local governments (secondary and pre-school education and primary health care). Other issues were pointed out during the meeting by PLATFORMA representative: “the risk of slowdown in the pace of the voluntary community consolidation, insufficient capacity of some consolidated territorial communities due to improper and incomplete consolidation; the achievements of the reform not being specified in the Constitution and insufficient pace of local economic development, in particular, due to insufficient foreign investments and drain of work force”.

PLATFORMA representative, Olivier Baumard, presented the 2019-2021 Eastern partnership programme and the opportunities for Ukraine local and regional governments to exchange experience with EU peers, take part in trainings and seminars on governance, climate action, gender equality, local economic development and develop political dialogue with the EU institutions and national governments.

He outlined that “despite the difficulty met by Ukraine, cities and regions need to align their priorities on the Sustainable Development Goals to show their capacity to meet global challenges”. Thus, he called for partners around the table to strengthen EU-Ukrainian cities partnerships and announced the organisation of a Mayors Delegation to Ukraine led by the French Association of local and regional governments AFCCRE on 23-24 April. He also invited participants to save the date for the Forum of EaP-EU Local leaders “EaP 10th Anniversary: paving the way toward the agenda 2030” to be organised by the Association of Local Authorities of Lithuania on 24-25 October in Vilnius City Hall.