Internship at EU CSDP mission: building trust in Ukraine

Written by Tyyne Karjalainen



European Union CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) operations and missions offer one interesting opportunity for students of peace and conflict studies to do internships abroad. CSDP operations and missions aim to strengthen international peace and security and prevent conflict in cooperation with international actors and host countries of the operations in Europe, Africa and Asia. At the moment, there are sixteen on-going missions and operations that employ all together around five thousand people, mostly coming from EU member states. EU CSDP operations and missions are either civilian or military. As defined by EEAS, objectives of the current operations and missions are peace keeping, conflict prevention, strengthening of international security, supporting the rule of law and prevention of human trafficking and piracy. Eighteen missions and operations have already been completed.


EUAM Ukraine

From November 2018 to April 2019, I participated in an internship programme of the European Union Advisory Mission (EUAM) in Ukraine. EUAM Ukraine is a civilian mission, and its offices are located in the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv and Odesa. EUAM works on (and in cooperation with) the civilian security sector of Ukraine. The sector consists of agencies that are responsible for law enforcement and rule of law, such as the National Police and Security Service of Ukraine, State Border Guard Service, Ministry of Internal Affairs, General Prosecutor’s Office and courts. In addition, EUAM works with the civil society, the parliament and anti-corruption bodies, which also play a role in shaping the civilian security sector in Ukraine.

The EUAM mandate addresses problems that became visible to the international community during Euromaidan protests that took place in Kyiv and other cities of Ukraine during winter 2013–2014. The protests raised from the disappointment of pro-EU Ukrainians for the failure of the President Yanykovych’s government to sign the Association Agreement, including the DCFTA (The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas), with the European Union. The Euromaidan protests were mostly carried out by activists in support of EU association and objecting Yanukovych, the government and the Party of Regions, but also, especially in the later phases of the protests, by citizens objecting police abuse and in support of civil liberties. Hundreds of civilians were injured during Euromaidan as a consequence of the police use of force. Only in Kyiv, 106 demonstrators died, the riot police officers allegedly being responsible for at least 46 of the deaths. In the aftermath of the protests, dozens of individuals became subjected to lengthy pre-trial detentions and many were deprived of their right to a fair trial and due process, dozens of victims reporting of torture and ill-treatment in these circumstances.

In the end of the Euromaidan year, EUAM was established, following the invitation of the government of Ukraine. The goal of EUAM is to build Ukraine a civilian security sector that is efficient and accountable and trusted by the public. Reforms are being pushed, new legislation drafted and leaders and staff trained in the areas of criminal investigation, public order, community policing, human resource management, good governance, anti-corruption, human rights and gender and delineation of competencies. Being a non-executive mission, the purpose of EUAM is not to replace or substitute Ukrainian bodies and agencies but to advise, support and train Ukrainian counterparts in the reforms.

EUAM Ukraine employs around 300 staff members, half of them being Ukrainian and half international staff from EU member states and Canada. Interns are recruited occasionally to support selected teams. My tasks as an intern included participation in project planning, follow up and reporting, practical support in preparation and implementation of trainings and events and drafting of plans, agreements and reports.

I also participated in internal and external cooperation and coordination activities, which play a crucial role in Ukraine where dozens of international and local organizations conduct simultaneous and sometimes overlapping activities and projects, often with shared goals. To succeed as an intern in the dynamic environment required high level of autonomy and flexibility, ability to work in multinational and multi-professional teams and to cope with sometimes stressful situations. Kyiv is a peaceful city in a country of an active armed conflict, and thus, interns amongst other staff were expected to take certain measures to ensure safety of self and others.


Ukraine today

In 2019, Ukraine is still one of the most corrupt states in the world, its public institutions still enjoying only low level of public trust. In Europe, Ukraine is often ranked as the second most corrupt country, just behind Russia. In March 2019, nine percent of Ukrainians said to trust their national government. Improvement to Yanukovych times has been moderate, many reforms still waiting for implementation. In addition to corruption, political unwillingness, remaining legislative barriers and lack of coordination between state agencies hinder the reform processes. Disappointment of Ukrainians in the lack of progress in reforms and in the insufficient results in the fight against corruption was seen as a major factor explaining the results of the presidential election in 2019, a comedian, Volodymyr Zelensky, being elected over the incumbent president Petro Poroshenko.

In some areas, the civilian security sector of Ukraine has developed positively. Extensive use of force by police has decreased and the ability of law enforcement agencies to protect peaceful assemblies ameliorated. However, attacks against events of minorities continue to take place. Also practices of torture and ill-treatment have not disappeared, and the failure to hold perpetrators accountable may lead to further violations, fostering a culture of impunity. (See UN HRMMU reports.)

On the other hand, many legislative improvements have taken place, enabling reforms to continue and new ideas to be implemented in future. Results of implementation of new strategies and advantages of new approaches (to policing for example) do not appear immediately. Similarly, benefits of new institutional structures and equipment, as well as of training, only come visible with time. Support to the positive developments and interest from the international community should continue.



Bikus, Zach (2019) World-Low 9% of Ukrainians Confident in Government. Gallup. Visited 4.5.2019.

European Union External Action. Visited 4.5.2019.

EUAM Ukraine. Visited 4.5.2019.

Ishchenko, Volodymyr (2018) Denial of the Obvious: Far Right in Maidan Protests and Their Danger Today. Vox Ukraine; (2016) Far right participation in the Ukrainian Maidan protests: an attempt of systematic estimation, European Politics and Society.

Transparancy International. Corruption Perceptions Index 2018. Visited 3.5.2019

UN HRMMU. Reports on the human rights situation in Ukraine. Visited 5.5.2019.

Volokh, Karl (2019) Ukraine: One of the World’s Most Corrupt Countries? The National Interest, blog:’s-most-corrupt-countries-49712 Visited 5.5.2019.