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EU wants reforms from new Ukraine government within 100 days

KIEV (Reuters) - The new Ukrainian government must use its first 100 days in office to implement reforms needed to secure 600 million euros in new aid, European Union Commissioner Johannes Hahn said on a visit to Kiev on Thursday.

European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn gestures during a news conference at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

The steps include tackling corruption by installing a new, reform-minded general prosecutor, and sticking to an International Monetary Fund assistance programme rather than trying to renegotiate it, Hahn said.

Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman took office last week, ending months of turmoil, amid growing frustration about the lack of progress made in tackling graft and transforming Ukraine’s economy after the 2014 Maidan street protests.

“Everybody wants to be reassured that Ukraine and the new Ukrainian government is committed to reform and making real changes,” Hahn told a press conference.

“Usually a government gets a grace period of 100 days, but in the Ukrainian case it should be 100 days of particular action and activity.”

The Maidan protests brought a pro-Western government to power which has embarked on a series of reforms and austerity measures in exchange for aid to keep Ukraine’s war-torn economy afloat. These included slashing gas subsidies and tackling endemic bribe-taking in the police force.

But the political crisis stalled progress in many areas of reform and corruption scandals raised questions about how serious Ukraine’s leaders are about delivering real change.

Groysman has stressed the need to conclude talks with the IMF for another tranche of aid worth $1.7 billion, although his new finance minister said in a newspaper interview that Kiev might ask for more flexibility in meeting the IMF’s demands.

A member of Groysman’s inner circle had told Reuters earlier this week that Groysman “will not blindly follow the recommendations of the IMF, he will negotiate. He is able to persuade and to defend his position”.

An IMF mission is expected to come to Kiev, but the exact timing of the visit will depend on how quickly the finance ministry is ready, a central bank official said on Thursday.

“It’s important, and this is something where the new government should reassure the international community immediately, that there are no intentions, no attempts trying to renegotiate something which is already agreed with the IMF,” Hahn said.

Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Catherine Evans