exemplary practices that will be useful for Ukraine

Author: Dariia Andriunina

Ukraine has been actively working on public service reforms to align with European standards and move closer to EU membership. The Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine requires the implementation of reforms, including in the public service. Despite being in a full-scale war with Russia, Ukraine’s candidacy for EU accession in 2022 has further accelerated reform efforts. The public service plays a crucial role in implementing state policies and ensuring the functioning of state institutions. Improving the public service is essential for Ukraine’s aspirations to join the EU and ensure effective and professional state governance. Learning from the EU’s experience is valuable, since it upholds high standards in public administration, including independence, efficiency, professionalism, transparency, openness, respect for human rights, and gender equality.

Ukraine is looking for inspiration for civil service reform, and one of the most interesting examples for us is the Estonian civil service, currently considered a leader in this area due to its digital solutions, transparency, openness, flexibility, and professionalism. So why is the Estonian example so attractive and important to us? First, Estonia is one of the countries that has broken free from Russian occupation and has successfully built its statehood. This context makes Estonia’s experience particularly intriguing for Ukraine, which is also in a challenging situation. Secondly, the Estonian civil service is based on digital transformation and the application of advanced technologies. This ensures high efficiency and quality in delivering public services. Estonia has become renowned for its innovative projects such as e-voting, e-governance, and e-identification of citizens. This enables a reduction in bureaucracy, improves service accessibility, and ensures transparency in public administration. Therefore, the Estonian experience holds value for Ukraine as it combines successful state-building with advanced digital solutions. Studying and implementing these ideas can be key factors in enhancing the efficiency and quality of the public service in Ukraine.

In addition, there are positive examples in other European countries that are worth studying to improve the efficiency of state management in Ukraine. 

For example, the Greek civil service has long been considered one of the least efficient. This was due to slow processes, a lack of effective financial control mechanisms, and a non-transparent system for selecting candidates for public service. But things have changed because of reforms aimed to change the government’s organisational structure, human resource management, state finances, decentralisation, regulatory reforms, and results-based management. The reform of the “government apparatus” became a key objective in 2014, focusing on reducing the size of the public administration and cutting costs. The administrative reform was crucial, leading to the formation of 18 ministries out of over 20 with overlapping functions. These reforms aimed to increase productivity, efficiency, and cost control of government agencies while improving the quality of public service delivery. E-governance, including online systems for citizen inquiries and services, was actively implemented to facilitate access to public services and reduce bureaucracy. The main goals of the Greek civil service are to strengthen democracy, implement laws and regulations, ensure proper functioning of government agencies, protect citizens’ rights, develop effective policies, manage public funds, support innovation, and ensure transparency. Important steps for improving efficiency include transparent recruitment processes, enhanced government decision transparency, and a focus on strategic tasks through decentralisation.

France has also carried out civil service reform. In 2019, the French government initiated a reform of its public administration and civil service. This legislative proposal aimed to reduce the number of civil servants by 120,000 and significantly optimise their work. In July 2020, the Ministry of Transformation and Public Service was established with the goal of accelerating the implementation of priority government policies, modernising public services, and developing the French civil service. To achieve these objectives, the Minister was granted the authority to oversee several departments within the central administration, consolidated under one ministry. The reform streamlined the functioning of the public administration, increased management flexibility, reduced the number of officials, and fostered greater involvement of temporary employees who do not hold the status of civil servants in government work.

Undoubtedly, Croatia is also an interesting case for Ukraine, as it has built a functioning democracy and managed to overcome the severe consequences of the war and successfully pass the path of European integration to full EU membership. Of course, public administration reform was not without its challenges. The reform of public administration in Croatia, implemented from 2008 to 2011, aimed to improve the efficiency of governance, the quality of administrative services, transparency, accessibility, and social sensitivity of governmental bodies. This was achieved through structural changes, improvement of laws and regulations, establishment of a modern civil service, training of civil servants, and simplification and modernisation of administrative procedures. The Ministry of Administration was responsible for overseeing the implementation of the reform. Significant innovations were introduced, including the recognition of the right to access public information, the creation of an official electronic platform for government procurement, and the adoption of new laws. Croatia continues to enhance its system of public administration as a full member of the European Union. The results of the reform include the alignment of the volume and quality of public services with citizens’ needs, streamlining the process of service delivery, and improving the competence of civil servants.

It is worth also bearing in mind our closest neighbour, Poland, which in its time overthrew the communist system and started on its prosperous European future. So, how was the Polish civil service reformed? It came with significant support from the European Union. The EU provided financial and technical assistance, facilitated the adoption of legislation in line with European standards, and aided in the development of human resources. Additionally, the EU conducted monitoring and evaluation to assess the progress and identify areas for further improvement. Poland was required to adopt legislation that aligned with European standards, which involved the creation of new laws on recruitment, qualifications, job allocation, and professional standards for civil servants. The EU also contributed to the development of the civil service’s human resources in Poland. This encompassed support in establishing training institutes, schools, and learning centres to enhance professional development and prepare civil servants according to European standards. In terms of monitoring and evaluation, the EU conducted this process to determine the progress, identify challenges, and provide recommendations for the further development of civil service reform. Overall, the EU’s assistance in reforming the civil service in Poland contributed to aligning it with European standards and preparing the country for EU membership.

European public service: exemplary practices that will be useful for Ukraine

In addition, a significant number of Polish civil servants have upgraded their qualifications at the College of Europe in Bruges. Moreover, in 1992, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, it was decided to open a campus in the Polish city of Natolin. Ukraine is currently going through a similar path. The College of Europe in Natolin provides Ukrainian civil servants with free online courses on European integration, for which more than 3,000 civil servants have already registered. More than that, the College of Europe in Natolin developed a programme specifically for Ukrainian civil servants who will be involved in the negotiation process for Ukraine’s accession to the European Union. The plan is to train 50 civil servants, of whom 16 have already been trained, including me. Perhaps Ukraine will go even further and, like Poland, one day open a campus of the College of Europe. For example, at a solemn meeting of the Verkhovna Rada on the occasion of the Statehood Day in July 2022, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine intends to establish its own campus of College of Europe, and a memorandum has already been signed between the Government of Ukraine and the College of Europe in Natolin.

At the same time, there are certain practices in Ukraine that still need to be improved to achieve European standards in the field of civil service. For example, reducing political influence on the civil service in practice, creating an effective personnel management system, ensuring enough qualified, motivated, high-moral staff, reforming the remuneration of civil servants, improving the image of civil servants in society, as well as improving the level of technical equipment and the use of information technologies. Ukraine is already making some progress. To reform the public service, Ukraine has enacted the Law of Ukraine “On Civil Service”, which establishes entry rules, criteria for professional competence, career advancement procedures, and principles for civil servants’ activities. Electronic declaration has been introduced, which ensures a higher level of transparency in the activities of civil servants. There is also an increase in requirements for declaring property and income, which should reduce the possibility of corruption in state structures.

Overall, reforming the civil service is a complex and multi-faceted process that requires a lot of time and effort. It is also socially sensitive. However, based on the example of EU member states, the use of modern approaches to the civil service helps to improve the quality of public administration and ensure the effectiveness of the performance of state functions.

In general, the European civil service has many positive features that would be useful for Ukraine. Ukraine is already taking some steps to improve its civil service, but much more work needs to be done to achieve European standards. I am convinced that the more effectively Ukraine carries out civil service reform, the more prosperous its future will be, as high self-organisation and efficient civil service are a strong foundation for growth and development.

To add to all the above, it is also important in this context to have an information campaign on the significance of the civil service, as was done in the European Union. Such an information campaign changed the worldview and life of millions of people in the European Union and can become a real intellectual treasure trove for the development of Ukraine.

Reforming the civil service is one of the important directions of European integration for Ukraine. The progress that has already been achieved with the support of the EU is significant, but to achieve European standards in this area, it is necessary to continue to make efforts and improve the practices that ensure effective and professional work of civil servants.

Originally published at https://www.einpresswire.com/article/642363484/european-public-service-exemplary-practices-that-will-be-useful-for-ukraine