Among the many international organizations present in Ukraine, today, one of the most decisive for Ukraine’s future is the European Union Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform Ukraine (EUAM Ukraine). It was established in 2014 to further the events of the Revolution of Dignity, which in large part was a protest against the abuse of security forces. At that time the Ukrainian government asked the EU to help reform the State security bodies and law enforcement procedures, in order to re-establish national and international trust.

In 2023, the mandate of the European Union Advisory Mission in Ukraine (EUAM) was substantially adjusted, to take into account Russia’s war of aggression, as well as Ukraine’s EU candidate status. So, EUAM also advises Ukrainian government on security reforms that will contribute to Ukraine’s EU accession and also supports on the investigation procedures on international crimes in the territories liberated from Russian occupation.

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As such, EUAM has the task of advising the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Police in the elaboration of new security procedures and the implementation of new rules in the investigation and law enforcement system of Ukraine. The target is to build up efficient police, who enforce the rule of law and respect human and civil rights.

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The Polish Volunteer Bringing Wheels to Ukrainian Soldiers

Since shortly after the full-scale war, “Exen” has been taking vehicles from his native Poland and transporting them to Ukrainian soldiers at the front.

Kyiv Post interviewed Danish diplomat Rolf Holmboe, EUAM’s Head of Mission.

Mr. Holmboe, the negative image of Ukraine abroad, due to the high level of corruption and poor law enforcement efficiency, is critical in the view of international investments plan for the reconstruction, after the war. Therefore, your Mission’s task is particularly valuable for the future recovery of the country.

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How does EUAM prioritize its advisory efforts within the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Police?

We in the EU Advisory Mission Ukraine strategically prioritize advisory efforts to closely follow the objectives in Ukraine’s Overarching Strategy (OAS) for Reform of the Entire Law Enforcement Sector 2023-2027. We work in close cooperation with the European Commission and the European Union’s Delegation to Ukraine, and we strategically support the development of the OAS and the Action Plan for its implementation. We focus our efforts on support to enhance operational efficiency and we advise on legal and procedural reforms. A key element is to facilitate the integration of digital technologies within law enforcement agencies. This is geared towards harmonizing Ukrainian practices with European standards, with a clear emphasis on combatting corruption and strengthening accountability, transparency, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for human rights.

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For Ukraine to progress quickly on its path towards EU accession, the OAS Action Plan must be time-bound and measurable and must have a strong anti-corruption focus. But we also have to consider the strains of the war and the engagement by law enforcement agencies at the front or in the liberated areas, facing substantial new challenges.

How is EUAM strengthening Ukraine’s capacity to combat organized crime and improve Integrated Border Management, especially in countering cross-border crime and facilitating border traffic and trade?

It is a key task for us to support Ukraine in strategically improving its Integrated Border Management (IBM) to meet the so-called Schengen Acquis and the EU Customs Union requirements. Upon the request of the Office of the Vice Prime Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, the Mission provides advice on the IBM Strategy and IBM Action Plan, supporting the design of both documents with a focus on EU integration and implementation of the Schengen Acquis. EUAM also contributes to enhancing the criminal analysis and risk assessment capacities of the agencies working on the borders, enabling risk-based border surveillance and checks.

Just after the full-scale invasion in 2022, EUAM strategically contributed to the introduction of the “Solidarity Lanes” initiative that has played a major role in keeping Ukrainian exports flowing out to markets in Europe and globally and essential support in coming into Ukraine.

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We will be considerably strengthening our partnership with Ukrainian law enforcement agencies to combat organized crime and smuggling in all its forms. We support capacity building to combat organized crime in close cooperation with the responsible EU institutions.

The establishment of the Coordination Centre for Integrated Border Management in April 2024 marks a significant step forward and improves the exchange of information and operational coordination between the responsible Ukrainian agencies.

The establishment of initiatives like the Ukrainian-Romanian Customs Working Group has facilitated the opening of two new Border Crossing Points, the development of a Border Infrastructure Master Plan, as well as the implementation of systems such as the Preliminary Exchange of Information and an Early Warning System, thereby enhancing both border security and trade efficiency.

How does EUAM measure the effectiveness and impact of its advisory activities on improving public trust in Ukrainian police and security bodies?

In Europe, we know that trust between the population and government agencies is essential for building a democratic and prosperous society. We employ a thorough approach to assess public trust in law enforcement agencies, also to better understand how we can contribute to building trust. Over the past four years, we have conducted four surveys, both nationwide and in specific regions. By using mixed-method research, we gain a comprehensive perspective on the factors influencing public perceptions.

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How is EUAM contributing to the reform of Ukraine’s security and intelligence agencies, particularly in terms of international cooperation and democratic oversight?

Focussing the mandates of security and intelligence services to their respective roles is crucial for building an efficient civilian security sector. SBU, for instance, is the core agency to deal with counterintelligence and counterterrorism. It allows other agencies to build up their competencies, for instance, in anti-corruption and economic crimes. Establishing internal control mechanisms inside the agencies and building real democratic oversight over the security and intelligence agencies is crucial for maintaining the checks and balances that are fundamental to any democratic society.

EUAM and other international partners have supported the development of the framework Law on National Security in 2018, which shaped Ukraine’s entire security sector and democratic oversight model. This law mandated the establishment of a new parliamentary oversight committee for special-purpose law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including the SBU. The adoption of the Law on Intelligence in 2020 was another significant legislative step towards ensuring greater accountability and transparency in line with EU principles and best practices. The mission stands ready to provide operational support for the establishment of a new standalone committee in the Verkhovna Rada with oversight powers over security and intelligence agencies. Effective parliamentary oversight, including by a dedicated committee, is deemed essential for SBU reform and is a key element towards building a service enjoying broad public trust.

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During the war, we also support the integration of Ukrainian security and intelligence services into the European security community.

What initiatives does EUAM undertake to support territories liberated from Russian occupation in terms of law enforcement and security?

Ukrainian Law Enforcement Agencies face daunting challenges in areas liberated from Russian occupation, and it requires immediate attention. The National Police together with the National Guard are among the first responders tasked with stabilizing and restoring law and order in these communities after the front line moves on. They face daunting tasks outside their normal law enforcement functions, and they encounter significant problems, including destroyed infrastructure, a lack of basic equipment and personnel, and the persistent threat from mines and shelling.

EUAM will build on a joint interagency stability policing concept. It will ensure the training of all command levels. Last but not least, it will support the establishment of a Ukrainian pre-deployment training program for LEA officers designated for service in liberated and adjacent territories. 

Training programs cover a range of topics, including international crimes investigation, tactical medicine, psychological support, and strategic communication. Moreover, study visits to institutions like Blue Haven Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and the Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units in Vicenza, Italy, provide valuable insights and expertise.

EUAM’s activities in liberated areas include the donation of essential equipment, such as IT hardware, radiocommunication devices, vehicles, medical kits, and forensic equipment.

How is EUAM enhancing the capacities of Ukrainian agencies to investigate and prosecute international crimes, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity?

EUAM’s dedicated International Crimes Component comprises experts in investigations, prosecutions, and specialists in key areas such as OSINT and forensics. Our key counterparts include the Office of the Prosecutor General, regional prosecution offices, and agencies primarily responsible for investigating international crimes, such as the Security Service of Ukraine and the National Police of Ukraine.

EUAM advises on legislative changes to align the legal framework with international humanitarian law and international criminal law, aiming for potential regulatory or structural changes in terms of the prosecution/adjudication of international crimes.

EUAM strengthens the capacity of Ukrainian prosecution and investigative agencies to investigate and prosecute cases alleging international crimes. This is achieved through targeted trainings on international humanitarian law, international criminal law, the use of open-source material, and specialist investigative skills required for war crimes cases.

As one of the implementing entities of the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group (ACA), which is a central grouping of US, UK, and EU in support of Ukraine, EUAM provides strategic advice, analysis, and best practice sharing related to investigating and prosecuting international crimes.

EUAM aims to enable prosecutors and investigators to conduct large-scale investigations efficiently, ensuring compliance with human rights and international standards.

Can you provide examples of successful reforms or initiatives implemented with EUAM’s advisory support?

Over the course of its 10-year presence in Ukraine, EUAM has contributed significantly to various successful reforms and initiatives. Notably, our support has been instrumental in the reform of the National Police, resulting in a noticeable increase in public trust – a stark contrast to the situation a decade ago. Additionally, our efforts have focused on prosecutorial reform, aiming to transform the Office of the Prosecutor General into a more trusted, independent, and transparent institution.

EUAM’s support also extends to the establishment of the State Bureau of Investigations, where we have enhanced the professionalism of its staff and modernized its technical infrastructure. Furthermore, our collaboration with the Ministry of Internal Affairs has led to the establishment of the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Service Centers, which now provide more efficient services to the population across Ukraine.

Looking ahead, EUAM remains committed to supporting stabilization efforts in the war-affected areas, cooperating with EU and international partners to address international crimes accountability, and providing practical support and advice to our Ukrainian partners. There is still much work to be done, and EUAM will continue its efforts to contribute to Ukraine’s ongoing reform processes, its EU integration, and post-conflict recovery.

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