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Wake up call for Ukrainian PM in Brussels as top EU official says Kiev remains hindered by ‘criminals’ & ‘widespread corruption’

Wake up call for Ukrainian PM in Brussels as top EU official says Kiev remains hindered by ‘criminals’ & ‘widespread corruption’
Given his country’s geopolitical importance to the bloc, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmigal might have expected a smoother ride on his visit to the European Union in Brussels this week.

Addressing the European Parliament on Tuesday, its executive vice president, MEP Valdis Dombrovskis, revealed that the bloc believes corruption is still holding Kiev back.

Speaking on behalf of the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs Josep Borrell, Dombrovskis said Ukraine “remains high on the European agenda,” but “comprehensive judiciary reform is long overdue,” noting that the country still has issues with “criminals and oligarchs.”

Dombrovskis also spoke about MEP Michael Gahler's special report on implementing the EU Association Agreement with Ukraine, a document signed in 2014, which became effective in 2017.

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“I share your assessment that, ‘despite notable progress, widespread corruption continues to hamper Ukraine's reform process,’” Dombrovskis said, concerning the document. “Its key institutions must have strong and independent leadership and the chance to do their work free of political, economic or other interference.”

In particular, the MEP pointed the finger at “Russia's intervention,” which he believes is designed to “destabilize, divide and weaken Ukraine.”

“We urge all reform-oriented political factions to come together and give a clear signal of Ukraine's determination to make its reform path irreversible,” he said.

On Tuesday, Shmigal arrived in Brussels and met with Charles Michel, the European Council president. He is due to meet Dombrovskis on Wednesday.

Since the election of Volodymyr Zelensky as Ukrainian president, he has repeatedly stated his goal to become a member state of the political and economic union.

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Kiev and Brussels already have a very close association agreement. However, despite political will in Ukraine, there are still many obstacles to its accession into the bloc. These include the low level of economic development and the ongoing war in Donbass.

While Ukraine seeks to become an official candidate country for membership to the EU, this was explicitly rejected by all members of the bloc in 2016, following a Dutch advisory referendum that came down against the Association Agreement.

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