Daniel Freund

23. April 2024 Democracy

How is the fight against corruption progressing in Ukraine? My trip to Kyiv last week

I traveled to Kyiv last week to take a closer look at anti-corruption efforts taken by the government. Currently, international financial aid amounting to billions is flowing into the country, which has been rocked by corruption scandals in the past. I met with civil society activists, investigative journalists, anti-corruption authorities in the country, as well as with the office of the Deputy Prime Minister, to better understand the extent of the corruption problem and which measures are effective in combating it.

Without air defense, the war is lost.

First and foremost, I want to highlight that even during my recent visit to Kyiv, rocket alarms were sounding. Vladimir Putin is currently launching the most intense rocket attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine since the beginning of the war. The infrastructure is struggling to keep up with repairs, and the Ukrainian air defense is insufficient to fend off these rocket and drone attacks. Ensuring air defense is now the top priority, as without it, there may be no electricity or heating next winter. Based on information from my contacts, it’s clear that Ukraine is at risk of losing this war. In summary, Ukraine urgently requires at least six additional Patriot air defense systems.

When a lot of money meets little control.

Several serious corruption cases have been uncovered in Ukraine in the past, especially in the areas of customs and military procurement. Unfortunately, this is not surprising but expected when large sums of money (international financial aid) encounter overloaded control systems. Nevertheless, several contacts confirm to me: Ukraine has made significant progress in combating corruption. According to Transparency International, they are content with the work of the anti-corruption authorities. They have now reached the level of other EU accession candidates in combating corruption. One example:

With the ‘sandwich’ approach against overpriced eggs.

Investigative journalists in Ukraine had uncovered that the army had purchased vastly overpriced food items (including eggs at triple the price) and winter clothing. The surplus then ended up in the wrong pockets. The case led to an outcry in Ukrainian public opinion and civil society, as well as criticism from international donors. Under pressure from both internal and external actors (referred to as a ‘sandwich’), reforms were enacted by the government, including the establishment of a neutral procurement agency. I visited this institution, and it operates much like any mundane bureaucracy: bids are solicited, prices compared, and contracts awarded. While it may sound boring, it’s successful: procurement expenses have been reduced, and the risk of corruption has been lowered.

What Europe must do now.

My conclusion: Ukraine is making important progress in combating corruption. However, it will need our European support. This includes: Individuals convicted of corruption in Ukraine must be extradited to Ukraine and should not find refuge in EU member states. Additionally, we must introduce Ukrainian authorities to EU control mechanisms for EU funds early on. For me, this also entails a timely accession to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. If there is fraud and corruption involving EU funds in Ukraine, EU authorities must be able to investigate.

However, amidst all constructive criticism, we must not forget: at Maidan Square, there is a small flag for each person killed in this war. It’s a sad, somber sea of flags. Tens of thousands of men and women have died in this war. They have sacrificed their lives for Europe. At the same time, in Germany, the far-right is launching their campaign of lies against Europe, calling for the end of the EU.

It must always be absolutely clear on which side we stand.

It must always be absolutely clear on which side we stand.


Climate catastrophe, companies that pay no taxes, the impact of digitalisation - no single country can solve these problems alone. For this we need a strong European Union that is capable of taking action. For the Greens/European Free Alliance, I am responsible for leading the work on the conference on the future of the EU.