Weekly analytics of the Centre of Policy and Legal Reform include a weekly expert analysis of the most important processes in Ukraine in areas of constitutionalism, political parties and elections, governance and public administration reform, judiciary, combatting corruption, criminal justice, etc.
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Weekly analytics for 9 – 15 February 2021
European Parliament estimated Ukraine's reforms
On February 11, the European Parliament issued a resolution on Ukraine’s implementation of the Association Agreement with the European Union. Noting the progress in the implementation of certain reforms, such as decentralization (which is called one of the most successful reforms), public administration, electoral reform, the European Parliament stated that the full potential of reforms is often not disclosed, and their implementation faces problems, including the lack of political will to ensure the full independence of the judicial and economic institutions and to avoid the selective administration of justice.
The resolution repeatedly draws attention to the need to step up efforts to implement ongoing reforms and to prevent regression of those already implemented. It was emphasized that further reforms are needed to complete European integration, especially in the areas of the rule of law, good governance and the fight against corruption, the widespread occurrence of which continues to hamper reforms.
The resolution also contains recommendations for further reforms. In particular, the resolution calls for the continuation and acceleration of judicial reform in order not to undermine the work of the newly established anti-corruption institutions.
The European Parliament insists on the speedy resumption of the work of the High Qualification Commission for Judges, established through a transparent competition with the participation of international experts. At the same time, the newly created Commission should be able to select new judges and check the current judges under the procedures approved by it.
In addition, a regret is expressed that the previous composition of the High Qualification Commission did not take into account the conclusions of the Public Council of Integrity when evaluating judges, and the resolution calls for such conclusions to be taken into account in the future, in particular when selecting new judges.
In addition, the European Parliament strongly insists on verifying the integrity of the members of the unreformed High Council of Justice.
In the field of anti-corruption, the European Parliament calls on the Ukrainian authorities to continue their efforts to restore a full and effective anti-corruption infrastructure, while maintaining its independence from the legislative and the executive powers. Restoring the powers of the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption plays a key role in this context. At the same time, the decision of the Constitutional Court should not be used to weaken the role of the agency.
It is also important to strengthen the independence of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, as well as to bring the relevant law into line with the Constitution and the decision of the Constitutional Court. Transparent, depoliticized competitive procedures for the selection of heads of the Anti-corruption Bureau, the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, and the State Bureau of Investigation should also be established, within which the integrity of candidates will be verified.
In addition, the European Parliament praised the draft Anti-Corruption Strategy for 2020-2024 and expects the Verkhovna Rada to adopt it in the near future.
In the area of criminal justice, the European Parliament welcomed the reform of the Office of the Prosecutor General and called for the completion of the attestation of prosecutors. Additional legislation aimed at limiting the competence of the Security Service of Ukraine should also be adopted in order to turn it into a purely counter-intelligence and counter-terrorist body.
In the area of the electoral process, the European Parliament welcomed the adoption of the Electoral Code, but insisted on its improvement and harmonization with international standards, to address issues such as social media campaigning, transparency of election campaign expenditures and access of independent candidates to the election process. Regarding participation in local elections, the parliament emphasizes the importance of removing bureaucratic obstacles to the registration of IDP voters, setting maximum campaign costs and providing opportunities for individual candidates to run in elections.
In the area of public administration, the European Parliament praised the progress made, but stressed the importance of not slowing down reform. In addition, as soon as possible, Ukraine should return to competitive selection for positions, instead of a temporary appointment during quarantine.
In the field of parliamentarism, the European Parliament called on the Verkhovna Rada to continue its institutional reform in order to increase its legislative capacity, establish political oversight of the executive power, ensure transparency and accountability to citizens, streamline and prioritize the adoption of draft laws related to the implementation of agreements with the EU and the establishment of institutional guarantees to block legislation that contradicts the agreements made (for example, by strengthening the role of the Committee on European Integration, the conclusions of which should be binding).
The resolution adopted by the European Parliament testified to the European Union’s deep awareness of the reform processes in Ukraine and the fact that there is currently no significant progress in key reforms and, moreover, attempts are being made to block them or even allow regression. The European Parliament’s reminder that the first tranche of EUR 600 million received by Ukraine in December 2020 in the absence of preconditions for this (i.e. in the presence of Ukraine’s outstanding commitments) is a one-off exception due to the special nature of this assistance, and points to the unwillingness to further turn a blind eye to the actual sabotage of many necessary reforms.
Based on the content of the resolution, full-fledged judicial reform, the assertion of the independence of anti-corruption institutions and their effective, unhindered work are mandatory preconditions for the further European integration movement of Ukraine.
President promised to reform the High Council of Justice and the capital's administrative court
On February 13, the website of the President of Ukraine announced that President Volodymyr Zelensky was initiating draft laws to verify the integrity of current members of the High Council of Justice (hereinafter – HCJ) and candidates for the council, as well as the transfer of disputes involving central authorities from the District Administrative Court of Kyiv (hereinafter – DACK) to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
On February 15, the President introduced two relevant draft laws (No.5067 “On Amendments to the Code of Administrative Procedure of Ukraine on Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as a Court of First Instance”, No. 5068 “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine on the Procedure for Election (Appointment) to the High the Council of Justice and the Activities of Disciplinary Inspectors of the High Council of Justice ”).
Establishing a mechanism to verify the integrity of HCJ candidates and members, as well as limiting the exclusive jurisdiction of the DACK, is part of Ukraine’s international commitments to the International Monetary Fund and the European Union taken last year. Despite the fact that the necessary legislative changes were to be adopted in the second half of 2020, the political authorities have long ignored the implementation of these commitments.
The long-awaited initiative of President Volodymyr Zelensky to introduce a mechanism to verify the integrity of HCJ members and reform the DACK may be related in particular to the address of G7 ambassadors at the end of January this year with a judicial reform plan, the European Parliament resolution of 11 February 2021, as well as the results of the work of the International Monetary Fund mission, which stressed the need for more progress to complete the first revision of the program. CPLR experts are of the opinion that after such statements, the further passivity of the Ukrainian authorities may negatively affect cooperation with international partners and the economic situation in Ukraine.
The content of the President’s legislative initiatives will be analyzed separately by CPLR experts after the texts of the draft laws are published.