The Gorshenin Institute, in partnership with the office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Kyiv conducted on June 7, 2018 the IX National Expert Forum. The Forum is a communication platform that brings together leading Ukrainian and European experts, decision-makers and those who define policies in public and private sectors. In the dialogue and expert discussion, speakers and the audience analyze the situation and seek answers to the challenges that Ukraine faces in the changing world. The forum consisted of three panels, dedicated to security and defence, reforms process and digitalization in Ukraine, was attended by more than 250 prominent politicians, civil servants, experts and media.
The debate within the first high level panel was focused on the “Formula for Ukraine`s Security” and its participants were Oleksandr Turchynov (Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council), Arsen Avakov (Minister of the Interior Ukraine), Knut Fleckenstein (MEP and Foreign Affairs Coordinator of the S&D Group) and Melinda Haring (Atlantic Council). Turchynov emphasized the current and increasing threat of Russian forces at the Ukrainian border and in the occupied territories. Due to the forthcoming elections the Kremlin wants to destabilize Ukraine with its hybrid war measures. Thus, the country has to strengthen its capabilities within the military and defence industry to, first, reach NATO standards, second, attract foreign investment and, third, be more attractive as a strong ally for the West. In this context, Israel, which is under a constant threat by its neighbors, but, nevertheless, attracts foreign investment due to its strong military and high-tech sector, was quoted as role model by Turchynov and Avakov.
The Ukrainian Minister of the Interior presented a plan for the Reintegration of the Donbas region. Instead of building walls, the occupied districts should be de-militarized and taken over by the Ukrainian police and international peace keepers without Russian participation. Living conditions must be increased and public infrastructure has to be restored. To have a legitimate partner for cooperation, local elections should take place immediately and the result should be accepted without reference to the political orientation. It is crucial to answer a hybrid war with a hybrid peace, the Minister stated. Nevertheless, Avakov told the audience that the Minsk format is dead. Knut Fleckenstein stressed out that there is no real discussion in the European Parliament and the Commission concerning the current political position on Ukraine. Of course, the sanctions hurt business in the EU, but, nonetheless, sanctions will be upheld. Moreover, as a German politician he underlined that Nord Stream 2 will not be accomplished without insurances for Ukraine and that, however, Minsk as diplomatic dialogue platform has to be preserved and continued. Furthermore, Fleckenstein welcomed the Reintegration plan as a concrete measure and invited Minister Avakov to present the document in Brussels.
Melinda Haring declared that Ukraine is still a priority of the US policy and that the war will end if the Russians put down their guns. Despite this fact, Ukraine could do its part by implementing a civil-military strategy to win the hearts and minds of the population, which include more checkpoints to the occupied regions, housing issues and voting rights of internally displaced persons, better economic circumstances and transparency in the military budget. Concerning the conflict, Haring expected till the Ukrainian elections no change of the status quo.
The second panel discussed the reform process in Ukraine with a focus on institutionalization. National experts like Maksym Stepanov (Chairman of Odesa Regional Administration), Vitaliy Butenko (Commercial Director of DTEK Energy), Roman Shpek (Council Chairman of the Independent Bank Association) and Ihor Kohut (Director of USAID RADA Program) and international expert Georg Zachmann (Senior Fellow at Bruegel) discussed economic questions and energy issues. It was generally concluded that the Ukrainian economic growth is too low in comparison with similar countries and, thus, this is one cause of the brain drain that is affecting the country. Moreover, the speed of reforms is too slow. The opportunity for reforms under a parliamentary majority in 2015, which was able to change the constitution, was missed. Regarding energy issues, Butenko, DTEK Energy concluded that energy security means independence and that $300 billion of investment in modernization are necessary in the sector. Thus, foreign expertise, technology and investment should be attracted. Bruegel expert Zachmann added that the survival despite energy supply interruptions in the past is a good sign, but that further steps like free trade of energy with the EU, an improved investment environment and a more effective scheme for renewables are necessary.
The third and last panel discussed the topic “Digital Agenda. Innovation as a Factor for Development”. On the one hand, the panel participants shed light on the benefits that arose with modern technologies like blockchain and the chance of enhanced investments into Ukraine. On the other, threats and vulnerabilities, like cyber-attacks as method of hybrid war or cyber security, were highlighted.