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German Expert Tells Ukrainian Media: West Sick and Tired of Poroshenko

© REUTERS / Yves HermanUkraine's President Petro Poroshenko (L) is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of their meeting at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, August 27, 2015
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (L) is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of their meeting at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, August 27, 2015 - Sputnik International
Ukraine's Western partners are disappointed with the lack of progress of the country's reform process, and with Petro Poroshenko's record as the country's president in particular, German political scientist and historian Andreas Umland told the Ukrainian news and analysis portal Apostrof.

Umland, an analyst at the Kiev-based Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, told Apostrof that while he fully supports Ukraine's attempts to reform along Western lines, his assessment of the first two years of President Poroshenko's term in office is mostly negative, since Ukraine continues to face many of the same problems it did when he was first sworn in, along with a series of new ones. 

Among the areas where mistakes were made, in the scholar's opinion, were the reform of public administration, the fight against corruption (or the lack of one), and the failure to establish the rule of law. 

Moreover, Umland said that he knows "many foreign observers, diplomats, and representatives of donor organizations who are for the most part dissatisfied with the results of these so-called reforms. Reform is something talked about a lot in Ukraine, but what's actually done is several times less than what is talked about." 

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Interestingly, pointing to some of the rare successes in the reform process, the political scientist cited the reorganization of Ukraine's police force, despite the fact that senior Ukrainian officials recently admitted that crime has spiked nearly 50% following the reform.

In any case, the root of the country's governance problems, according to the analyst, is that Ukraine has not been able to escape the malaise of its post-Soviet existence. "No radical changes have been made to the logic of the functioning of the Ukrainian political and economic system," he noted. "This is the root of all evil. It is built on the concepts of cronyism, 'covering each other's backs', patronism, nepotism, clans, bribery and intrigue. Informal mechanisms, not the rule of law, regulate social life."

This system, according to the expert, applies to all levels of government, including the president's entourage, lawmakers, officials and bureaucrats. The country's authorities, he suggested, face a "problem of culture," and seem unable to escape this "system of backroom agreements."

Meanwhile, commenting on the many foreigners who have been brought into the government to carry out reforms, Umland indicated that he gets the impression "that all these foreigners are invited into Ukrainian politics for image purposes. In fact, I do not think that these foreigners are needed."

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"If there was another system of governance, a different electoral system, and subsequently, a different parliament, Ukraine would be able to cope with its own problems without using foreign politicians and advisors. Unfortunately, I do not see any radical changes in the system of state administration," the scholar said.

Furthermore, the analyst complained that the Ukrainian president seems to be more concerned with his own power and business interests than he is with his country. In this regard, he suggested, much of whatever reform progress has been made should be associated with pressure from foreign donors and civil society, not with the head of state. 

Ultimately, noting that Western leaders were taken in at first by Poroshenko's mannerisms and by his English language skills, eventually, Umland said, "the inactivity and the façade of reforms in the country" are now both working against him personally and "undermining Ukraine's foreign policy. Many Western partners are disappointed with the president."

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