Cohesion, security and regional policy – out of time?Ukraine has always been quite low in the world competitiveness ranking (in the ninth ten countries). In terms of such an indicator as the effectiveness of public institutions, we have always had problems. So, if in 2019 in the overall ranking Ukraine was in 85th place, then in terms of institutions it was in 104th place, in terms of infrastructure it was in 57th place (2019 was taken because it was a pre-Covid year), writes ZN.</p
And here we are again getting another change in the system of Ukrainian public institutions. Government Decree No. 1343 dated December 2, 2022 will probably be repeatedly analyzed not only by Ukrainian experts, but also by European partners. And this analysis can have rather unexpected consequences for Ukraine.
But let's get back to the aforementioned resolution. There are a few things to think about here and try to predict the consequences for a very important public policy that is key for the European Union and even more important for Ukraine: state regional policy. So, we read the Decree:
- “Rename the Ministry of Infrastructure into the Ministry of Development of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure of Ukraine.
- Reorganize the Ministry of Development of Communities and Territories by joining the Ministry of Development of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure.”
Everything seems to be normal here – or almost normal. A “Big Ministry of Regional Development” is being created, which will deal not only with regional policy and regional development as such, but also with the infrastructure necessary for regional development. Unfortunately, this is not the case, because further, by the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 1400 of December 17, 2022, a new version of the Regulations on the Ministry of Infrastructure is approved, which, in accordance with Decree No. 1343, should be called the “Ministry for the Development of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure of Ukraine”. And this new Regulation says:
“one. The Ministry for the Development of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure of Ukraine (Ministry of Infrastructure) is the central executive body, whose activities are directed and coordinated by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.
The Ministry of Infrastructure is the main body in the system of central executive bodies that ensures the formation and implementation of the state policy:
in the field of road, rail, sea and inland water transport, the provision of postal services, and also ensures the formation and implementation of state policy in the field of air transport and the use of the airspace of Ukraine, tourism and… – a bunch of other things, except for “state regional policy” or “regional development policy.”
That is, the Ministry of Infrastructure remains the Ministry of Infrastructure, and the Ministry of Regional Development simply disappears, dissolves into kilometers, bridges and cars. Therefore, it can be assumed that the era of the formation and implementation of the state regional policy in accordance with the rules and best practices of the European Union and our desire to integrate into the EU as soon as possible has ended.
In Ukraine, there is no longer an institution that would deal with state regional policy.
And then will Ukrainians and Europeans understand the state regional policy in Ukraine as a whole?
Ukraine as a state was formed within the territories that for a long time were part of different states, and therefore there are some significant socio-mental differences in them: religion, language, traditions. To this we must add differences in the settlement system of different regions, the presence of certain competitive advantages (ports) or, conversely, restrictions (mountains, swamps), in the levels of urbanization, industrialization, in the amount of GRP per capita, etc.
Russia has always used these differences to destabilize first the political field in Ukraine, and later to wage war against the whole of Ukraine.
Work on understanding our own regional policy really began back in 1999 and ended with the Decree of the President of Ukraine No. 341/2001 “On the Concept of State Regional Policy” of May 25, 2001, which provided for the formation of the Ministry of Regional Development until 2003.
In 2004, Ukraine was shaken for the first time precisely because of the inflating of interregional disagreements: Maidan 2004-2005, separatist congress in Severodonetsk. All this testified that there is no adequate regional policy, but it is very necessary. But politics is formed by public bodies, and not a single ministry has done this.
The ministry, which should have dealt with the issue of state regional policy, was nevertheless created, but only in 2007, and its formation turned out to be difficult, since the very concept of “state regional policy” caused a certain misunderstanding among politicians: where is the money, and what can be shown voters from this policy.
But it was the presence of such a ministry that led to the fundamental reform of local self-government and the territorial organization of power in Ukraine, which became the most important hallmark of Ukraine's success. Now the Ukrainian reform is being studied and used in various European countries.
In recent years, Ukraine has developed a general framework for the formation and implementation of the state regional policy, which, in its structure and functional content, corresponds to the best European practices. A system of planning documents of the state regional policy has been created; The State Strategy for Regional Development of Ukraine-2027 contains advanced models of territorial development for European countries based on the definition of different functional types of territories that need their own special instruments of state development support or at least stop their degradation. A new system for financing the development of regions was created – the State Regional Development Fund, the use of regional development programs was tested, which follow from the operational goals of the state strategy, in particular, a program aimed at achieving cohesion in the Ukrainian space.
But most importantly, what what has been achieved over the years in the field of state regional policy is that politics began to focus on people, and not on structures; on projects, not on objects. Yes, not everything worked out yet, but the changes seemed to be becoming irreversible.
The Ministry of Regional Development disappeared. Comment by Anatoly Tkachuk
“State regional policy is a system of goals, measures, means and coordinated actions of central and local executive authorities, authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, local governments and their officials to ensure a high level of quality of life for people throughout Ukraine, taking into account natural, historical , ecological, economic, geographical, demographic and other features of the regions, their ethnic and cultural identity” (Law “On the principles of state regional policy”).
The ministry has disappeared. And what about in the EU?
In the EU, the importance of regional policy is defined directly in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, where there are five articles devoted to “economic, social and territorial cohesion” (Articles 174-178).</p
The most important article here is Article 174, on the basis of which the other articles are built and the means for the policy of cohesion and regional development are formed:
“In order to promote its overall harmonious development, the Union develops and implements its actions aimed at strengthening its economic, social and territorial cohesion.
In particular, the Union aims to reduce disproportions between the levels of development of different regions and the backwardness of regions with the least favorable position.
Among the relevant regions, special attention is given to rural areas, areas affected by the industrial transition, and regions suffering from serious and permanent natural or demographic disadvantages, such as the far north regions with very low population density and insular, cross-border and mountainous regions. p>
To achieve these goals, the EU has allocated 392 billion euros for economic, social and territorial cohesion, which will be distributed through appropriate special funds for the period 2021-2027.
As we can see from the above text, Article 174 is also very relevant for Ukraine, and Ukrainian legislation in the field of state regional policy seems to be built on this article and develops it on the basis of Ukrainian realities. For Ukraine, as well as for the EU, not just autobahns and bridges are of great importance, but their positive impact on the cohesion of space, on leveling disproportions, on improving the quality of human life in regions that are currently lagging behind in development. It is important that public investment does not give rise to large or new asymmetries, so that there are no voices – who feeds whom.
Ministry of Regional Development. What now?
Ukraine at war. A lot of territories have been occupied, there has been a grandiose displacement of millions of people across the territory of Ukraine, millions have gone abroad. Many industrial, infrastructure, social facilities, housing stock have been destroyed, hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land have been taken out of circulation for a long time. What recovery or revival policy is needed now?
Many slogans are now being heard about restoration – let's rebuild everything that was destroyed, make it better than it was! A good slogan, but is it real, and is this approach really necessary? Who should be rehabilitated? How many people will return to the destroyed and then rebuilt cities and villages? Therefore, does everything need to be restored? And will there be enough resources for this?
Much of what was destroyed was built more than 30 years ago, when the population of Ukraine was about 50 million people. At the time of the invasion in Ukraine, the population was estimated at 41 million people, taking into account the occupied territories. Today it is difficult to estimate the number of the population as a whole, but based on the explanatory note to the draft State Budget of Ukraine for 2022, it can be assumed that without taking into account those who left Ukraine because of the war, the real population does not exceed 34.5 million people.
Analyzing the results of a sociological survey conducted by the Council of Europe in November 2022, it can be assumed that about 2.7 million temporarily displaced persons within Ukraine will not return to their places of their former, pre-war residence. Therefore, the planning of revival becomes not identical, but different from the concept of restoration of the Ministry of Regional Development.
The revival of territorial communities, regions, countries should be considered as a stage in the context of future post-war development. This approach is embedded in the latest amendments to the Law “On the Principles of State Regional Policy”. This was supposed to be done by the central executive body, “which ensures the formation of the state regional policy” (quote from the law).
Now there is no such body in Ukraine. The Ministry of Infrastructure, according to its position, is not such a body. It looks a little strange. If there is no body, there will be no politics. We have seen this before. The full name of the “newly formed” ministry still left room for hope, the short name and content of the Regulations on the Ministry – such hope is buried.
I would like to hope that the short name, which does not follow from the full name, the absence in the Regulations of the prescription that this ministry is the central executive body that is responsible for the formation and implementation of the state regional policy, and this is its defining authority – the result of only haste, and not a conscious deviation from the essence and content of the state regional policy, fixed by Ukrainian laws.
From the appearance of the first concept of the state regional policy in 2001 to the fixation of such a policy goal:
“The goal of the state regional policy is to create conditions for the dynamic, balanced development of Ukraine and its regions, to ensure their social and economic unity, to improve the living standards of the population, to create safe conditions, to comply with state-guaranteed social standards for every citizen, regardless of his place of residence”,
—almost 15 years have passed. Is it really possible to destroy this with one decision in one day?
Will these changes be understood by the Ukrainian territorial communities and our European partners, from whom we expect funds for the restoration of the regions?
P.S.If we expect to receive European funds for restoration, we must show the Europeans our ability to plan, use and control these funds in accordance with European practice on the basis of Ukrainian legislation, which should be harmonized with European. Ukrainian legislation in the field of state regional policy is precisely such, the structure of government in this area, the system of planning documents, until recently, also looked quite systematic and logical.
In order not to destroy these achievements, it is urgent to make changes to the aforementioned regulation on the Ministry of Infrastructure, change the name of the Ministry to the Ministry of Regional Development and introduce into the provisions the norm that this ministry is responsible for the formation and implementation of the state regional policy.
Well – and not to lose during this reorganization people who already have experience and motivation to implement a modern regional policy in Ukraine. It is also worth noting here that infrastructure is a component of regional policy, a tool for the development of regions, and not vice versa, and that even decentralization is also a component of state regional policy, because these are responsible and effective institutions.
Director for Science and Development of the Institute of Civil Society
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