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Call for new impetus on essential reforms in Ukraine

Strasbourg, 16.07.2014 – A co-rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Ukraine, ending a visit to the country, has called on the Ukrainian authorities, and especially President Poroshenko, to give a new impetus to the reform process in Ukraine – and strongly urged the President to revise his existing proposal for constitutional changes.

“The window of opportunity in Ukraine to pass the constitutional, electoral and judicial reforms that are so essential for the development of the country is rapidly closing, and little has been achieved so far,” said Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin (Sweden, EPP/CD), speaking at the end of a four-day visit to Kyiv and Odessa.

“President Poroshenko’s proposal for constitutional amendments only partially addresses the changes the country urgently needs. For instance, further amendments needed for the proper reform of the judiciary and the Prosecutor General’s office are missing. From my contacts with all factions in the Verkhovna Rada, it’s clear there is only going to be one chance to amend the Constitution in the foreseeable future, and the President should seize this chance.”

“I urge him to submit a revised proposal to the parliament that is comprehensive and addresses all issues right from the start. This should be based on wide consultation, including with international partners – such as the Venice Commission – and civil society.”

“The President’s existing proposal aims to genuinely decentralise power to the local and regional level, which I welcome. This is key to strengthening the unity of the country, and its overall democratic development. However, many people I spoke to have questioned the role and powers of the Presidential regional representatives that are proposed in the existing reform package. This issue needs to be clarified and possible concerns addressed.”

Ms de Pourbaix-Lundin continued: “I also welcome the intention to hold pre-term parliamentary elections, which was also recommended by the Assembly – but only when the necessary conditions are in place, and only when all citizens can take part. To hold an early election when large numbers of people in eastern Ukraine are unable to vote would undermine the main aim of such elections, which is to strengthen the representativeness and legitimacy of the Verkhovna Rada. Besides, such an election should be held on the basis of a new election code, and a regional proportional election system that is favoured by almost all parties and stakeholders.”

Turning to her visit to Odessa, the PACE co-rapporteur stressed the need to investigate the tragedy of 2 May promptly and above all transparently. “The local population are asking many questions about these events, which need clear answers in order to avoid distrust and possible tension. I welcome the work done on this issue by a group of civil society experts and journalists, which deserves the full support of the authorities and the international community, and urge the international community to provide expertise to assist the investigations. The inquiry into the more than 100 deaths on the Maidan in Kyiv must also be vigorously pursued.”

Ms de Pourbaix-Lundin strongly condemned the human rights violations and abuses committed by armed pro-Russian insurgents, as chronicled in a recent Amnesty International report: “There can be no impunity for these crimes. I also condemn the recent rocket attack on Ukrainian troops and express my condolences to the families concerned. The Ukrainian authorities should establish full control over the border with Russia and the authorities in Moscow must immediately cease arming the pro-Russian separatists. Sustained pressure on Russia on this issue, including credible sanctions by the West, is important. I call on all stakeholders to give full support to President Poroshenko’s peace plan, which is the only viable plan for the resolution of the situation in eastern Ukraine.”

Finally, the PACE co-rapporteur urged Council of Europe member States to make funds and resources available to deal with the humanitarian consequences of the hostilities. “The basic needs of those affected by the fighting far exceed what the Ukrainian authorities and international organisations are currently providing. We need to do more to help.”

Mrs de Pourbaix-Lundin said she and her fellow monitoring co-rapporteur, Mailis Reps (Estonia, ALDE), would continue to follow developments in the country closely and would make a follow-up visit to Ukraine in September or October.