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Co-rapporteur urges Ukrainian authorities maintain momentum in fight against corruption

Following his visit to Kyiv in the framework of the ongoing monitoring procedure in respect of Ukraine, PACE co-rapporteur Eerik-Niiles Kross (Estonia, ALDE) welcomed the many reforms that have been implemented by the Ukrainian authorities, since the adoption of Assembly Resolution 2145 on the functioning of democratic institutions in Ukraine, despite the continuing military aggression and the context of the hybrid war waged against the country by the Russian Federation. This clearly underscores Ukraine’s commitment to the Council of Europe’s values and norms. At the same time, Mr Kross urged the Ukrainian authorities to maintain their commitment to the fight against the widespread corruption in the country, where regrettably tangible results are far less than hoped for.

In this context, Mr Kross stressed the importance of the establishment of the special anti-corruption court. He therefore urged the Verkhovna Rada to adopt the law to create this anti-corruption court without further delay and to ensure that the recommendations of the Venice Commission are fully taken into account, especially with regard to the jurisdiction of the Court, as well as with regard to ensuring that the international partners of Ukraine have a crucial role in the appointment of the judges of this court.

“As recommended by the Venice Commission the jurisdiction of the anti-corruption court should correspond to the one of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau lest the court would be overwhelmed by cases, which in turn would undermine its required effectiveness as a key instrument in the fight against high level corruption” stressed Mr Kross. “Moreover, it is clear from the many talks with our interlocutors that, in order to ensure that this court has the full trust of the Ukrainian citizens, the international community needs to have a crucial and binding role in the appointment of its judges”, he added.

Following his meeting with the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, Mr Kross expressed his serious concern about the lack of any tangible results with regard to the verification of the asset declarations filed under the e-declaration regime. “The Ukrainian society, as well as the international community, had rightfully very high expectations with regard to the e-declaration system. The lack of any concrete results with regard to the verification of these declarations by the NACP, as well as the failure of the NACP to have an automated verification system in place more than a year after the e-declaration system went live, is unacceptable and raised questions about its commitment and required political will” said Mr Kross. “Given that the 1st of April is the deadline for the next round of e-declarations, I urge authorities and all political forces, to work together to promptly resolve these problems in the functioning of this important institution” he added. In this context, Mr Kross expressed his concern about the tensions between the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and other law enforcement agencies as well as reports that the Special Anti Corruption Prosecutor is contemplating giving his resignation. All these inter agency tensions undermine the efforts to fight the widespread corruption in the country, and should be resolved promptly.

Mr Kross welcomed the fact that the Unified Election Code, a long standing recommendation of the Assembly, had been adopted in first reading. However he expressed some concern with regard to the timeframe for its adoption in final reading, given the more than 4000 amendments to this code and the fact that the political parties are already gearing up for the elections. He called upon all political forces to ensure that a proper legal and administrative framework for elections is in place that could have the trust of all political stakeholders and most importantly the Ukrainian citizens themselves.

With regard to civil society, Mr Kross expressed his dismay about the fact that the amendments that would postpone the coming into force of the controversial requirement for anti-corruption activists to file an e-declaration were not placed on the agenda of the Verkhovna Rada. This requirement, which has a chilling effect on anti-corruption activists and NGOs, violates European standards and should now be abrogated without further delay. Moreover, the Rapporteur called upon the authorities to recall, or at a minimum substantially amend, the draft legislation that would introduce a burdensome financial reporting regime for NGOs that, in its current format, runs counter to European standards and norms with regard to freedom of association.

In the context of his visit, Mr Kross had a meeting with the lawyers in the so-called Zatoka organised Crime case. He expressed his concern about the lack of progress in the prosecution of this case which highlights the obstacles in fighting organised crime and corruption in the Odessa region despite previous attention drawn to this by Assembly members and promises from the Prosecutor General's office.

Lastly, with regard to the law on education, Mr Kross welcomed the national and international consultations on the issue of education in minority languages and hoped that this issue would soon be resolved in full compliance with international norms. In this context, Mr Kross reiterated the Assembly’s full support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and condemned the fact that Russian presidential elections took place on the territory of illegally annexed Crimea.