Mailis Reps (Estonia, ALDE), co-rapporteur for the monitoring of Ukraine by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has welcomed the signing of the coalition agreement, the opening of the new Verkhovna Rada and the appointment of the Prime Minister.
Speaking at the end of a visit to Kyiv and Odessa, she said: “The new Verkhovna Rada and governing coalition have a clear mandate to pursue profound political change in Ukraine. We have great hopes and expectations that far-reaching reforms of the political and legal system, essential for the country’s development, will now be carried out.”
“We call on all members of the governing coalition to overcome any personal differences that could hinder the formation of the government or block the reforms,” said Ms Reps. She reiterated the clear position of the Parliamentary Assembly that the first step should now be constitutional reform, “which is the starting point for most other reforms”.
Ms Reps welcomed the governing coalition’s commitment to make the fight against rampant corruption a key priority, as well as its clear intention to make government and its servants fully accountable to the people, including for past practices. However she also emphasised that this should be carried out in line with human rights standards and the rule of law.
“I recognise the need for a lustration process, but it is essential that such a process is in full conformity with Ukraine’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. I therefore urge the authorities to promptly implement any recommendations that will be made by Venice Commission in its upcoming opinion on the Lustration Law that was requested by the Assembly,” she said.
Ms Reps expressed her deep concern at the gross violations of human rights in Crimea as well as in the areas of eastern Ukraine that are under the control of the self-proclaimed “peoples republics of Luhansk and Donetsk”. She also expressed her concern and dismay at the credible reports of human rights violations committed in the areas under the control of some of the volunteer battalions fighting under the supervision of the Ukrainian authorities.
“All these reported human rights violations need to be fully and transparently investigated, and any perpetrators brought to justice. Ukraine needs to show that it holds itself to different standards than the self-proclaimed people’s republics,” stressed Ms Reps. She urged the Ukrainian authorities to develop a coherent strategy for integrating volunteer battalions into the regular armed forces, emphasising that no “private armies” should potentially be allowed to exist in Ukraine.
In Odessa Ms Reps met with regional and local authorities, including the police and security forces, as well as a wide range of representatives of civil society, including representatives of the civil investigation into the 2 May 2014 tragedy. She lauded the efforts made by civil society, as well as the authorities, to safeguard the multicultural nature of the city and to counter any attempts to sow tension and mistrust in society.
At the same time she expressed concern that many interlocutors felt the authorities, especially the law enforcement and justice departments, were more lenient and more forgiving towards pro-Maidan groups and individuals than to those that hold other opinions. “Whether these fears are perceived or real, it is important that the authorities make clear that everyone is treated equally when it comes to justice and law enforcement. No inequality or impunity should be allowed to exist in this respect,” said Ms Reps.
The co-rapporteurs will continue to follow developments in Ukraine closely and intend to return to the country early in 2015.