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PACE Ukraine monitors: marked progress in many areas, but considerable challenges remain

Following a visit to Kyiv from 5 to 7 July 2021, the PACE co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Ukraine have welcomed the marked progress made on reforms in many crucial areas in the country, but emphasised that considerable challenges remain. In general, they underscored that the many reforms need not only to be adopted but also implemented and enforced.

The co-rapporteurs, Birgir Thórarinsson (Iceland, EPP/CD) and Alfred Heer (Switzerland, ALDE), warmly welcomed that all key institutions established to fight the widespread corruption in the country are now fully up and running and have delivered their first tangible results. They urged the authorities to continue taking all necessary steps to protect the independence of these institutions, including from challenges by other state agencies and institutions that could undermine the effectiveness of the fight against corruption. In this respect they recommended that the authorities consider increasing the number of judges in the High Anti-Corruption Court (HACC) and provide full prosecutorial powers to the Deputy Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor while the appointment process for the Special Prosecutor takes its course.

Reform of the judiciary is both the foundation of and litmus test for wider reform of Ukraine’s democratic institutions. In this respect the co-rapporteurs welcomed the recently adopted reform of the High Council of Justice and the High Qualifications Commission of Judges, which will ensure that Ukraine’s international partners have a meaningful voice in the appointment of the members of these two crucial judicial bodies. It is hoped this in turn will mean that the large number of vacant judge positions will now soon be filled with fully qualified candidates. The co-rapporteurs also welcomed the announced reform of the Constitutional Court, including with regard to the integrity of the judges, and hoped that a reform of the controversial Kyiv District Administrative Court, in line with international rule of law standards, would soon follow. While they understood the need for the more limited and focussed reforms under way, they hoped that these would not become a substitute for a holistic and strategic reform of the judiciary, which is still clearly needed in Ukraine.

The co-rapporteurs also welcomed reform in the area of decentralisation, which is widely regarded as an important step forward in strengthening local and regional self-government. They called on all members of the Verkhovna Rada to now adopt the necessary constitutional amendments to allow the next phase of decentralisation to be implemented.

Lastly the co-rapporteurs welcomed the announcement by the Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada that she expected Ukraine would soon ratify the Istanbul Convention, which sends an important message to the region.