How to strengthen the capacity of civil servants for successful European integration

Aspen Institute Kyiv became a platform for an important dialogue between experts from several countries. The topic of this meeting was “Development of the capacity of civil servants as a prerequisite for successful European integration”.

“Professional training of civil servants is an absolute priority, without which the next political steps related to Ukraine’s membership in the EU are impossible,”  as Olga Stefanishyna began her speech with this, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine. 

This thesis became clear in the speech of each speaker of the first panel of the meeting, during which experts from Ukraine shared their vision of what measures have already been planned by the Government to prepare civil service for the challenges of European integration. 

The full recording is available in Ukrainian

and in English


We offer to familiarize you with the messages of Ukrainian experts who participated in the online dialogue “Development of the capacity of civil servants as a prerequisite for successful European integration”. 

Olga Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine: The movement towards the EU is primarily systemic reforms: a competitive market economy and effective policies implemented based on European principles. We are following an accelerated procedure for the approximation of our legislation to EU law following the association agreement. Our goal by the end of this year is a maximum adaptation of the legislation. To develop capacity, we need to form a new generation of specialists who will not only ensure the effectiveness of internal state European integration work, but also be able to represent Ukraine in a dignified manner at negotiations, in EU institutions and, together with experts from EU member states, form EU policies. 

We see two key elements of strengthening institutional capacity in the field of European integration: 

  1. Formation of requirements for specialists who will be involved in negotiations and policy formation related to EU membership; 
  2. Approval of the system program for training, development, and raising the professional level of civil servants.

The first step in this direction was the signing by the President of the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation between the College of Europe in Natolin and the Government of Ukraine on deepening cooperation in educational activities and increasing the sustainability of the “Natolin4Capacity Building” Program. This Memorandum of Cooperation envisages the creation of conditions for the training and development of Ukrainian civil servants in the field of European integration, in particular within the framework of the process of negotiations on EU membership.” 

Oleksandr Kornienko, First Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine: “We have already come a certain way in the Public Administration Reform, which we started in 2016. This is important because we are not starting from scratch. In the past six years, there were different phases including COVID and a full-scale war. However, state institutions have proven their ability to perform their duties efficiently even in such conditions. 

During martial law, the President signed a draft law on Administrative Procedure which is very important in the interaction between citizens and the state.

As for the “personnel shortage”, unfortunately, it will still be present soon. Perhaps, in this context, it is appropriate to talk about the optimization of the state apparatus, but any optimization is a delicate balancing act between the needs of the bodies, state administration system and financial capabilities of the state. In addition, it is necessary to take into account society’s demand for services. Institutional capacity will grow when values, approaches, and rules are transformed into defined mechanisms, action protocols and concrete behavior of civil servants. All this is necessary for the implementation of EU laws in Ukraine.

I see optimistic prospects, although this is not a fast path. Where quick decisions are needed, the parliament will be ready to make them: both in personnel matters and in those processes that are needed now for reforms. We have already proven our readiness to respond promptly and make decisions in the conditions of martial law.” 

Nataliya Alyushyna, Head of the National Agency of Ukraine for Civil Service Issues: 

The National Agency of Ukraine for Civil Service places great hopes on the strengthening of the capacity of civil servants thanks to the cooperation with the College of Europe in Natolin and, in particular, the “Natolin for Capacity Building” program. Ukraine must have its platform for learning, which is why we are promoting the formation of the Higher School of Public Administration. This idea was supported, and today we have already submitted the documents to the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers. Public servants should have access to the best programs not only in the center but also in the regions, and such training should be based on job classification and grading.

Natalia Forsyuk, Director General of the Government Office for the Coordination of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration: 

Acquiring a candidate in the conditions of war is a rather complicated process. We have a situation where the number of specialists working in the Government Office is 24 units less than the number of sections of EU Law. This creates an extraordinary burden that will only increase as negotiations open. That is why it is very important to cooperate with the National Agency of Ukraine for Civil Service, with Natolin4Capacity Building in the development of training programs that will train specialists in this field. We plan to be ready for the opening of negotiations no later than the middle of next year. In other words, there is not much time. The ability of the Verkhovna Rada to work on European integration draft laws should also be high. The subcommittees must have people who can write draft laws following the acquis. This also applies to sectoral units. At the stage when they are drafting by-laws or laws, this must already happen in accordance with European legislation. Therefore, it should not be individual employees but civil servants who work in policy-making bodies in general — by default, they should understand what EU law is, what it consists of and what are the directives and regulations. I would also like to emphasize that the level of English must be very high so that civil servants do not have to waste time on translation and catch the nuances of the negotiations.” 

Tetyana Kovtun, Executive Director of the Office of Reforms of the CMU:

The essence and content of the State Administration Reform, which we have been working on for the past few years, has become clearer today than ever before. The fact that our country in a state of war can conduct negotiations with the EU became possible only because Ukraine has survived as a state and has functioning state institutions. Among the key challenges currently facing the civil service is the real practical implementation of EU legislation, with an assessment of the impact on sectors and stakeholders, as well as calculations necessary for reforms. One wrong step — for example, our nurses will not be able to work in EU countries. The issue of error is very valuable. Among the priorities for the development of civil service is the restoration of competitive selection, increasing the legislative potential of the government, open education for all, in particular the study of English and other languages, and the mechanism of rotation and secondment to strengthen the capacity of the civil service.”

The event was held by Aspen Institute Kyiv together with the Office of the Vice-Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration and the National Agency of Ukraine for Civil Service within the framework of the project “Virtue and governance”, which is implemented with the support of a grant from the National Endowment for Democracy, as well as with the support of the EU4PAR project and the Office of Reforms of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.