Media breakfast on the subject of “RPR Agenda for the Ukraine Week in the European Parliament” was organized at the RPR office with the participation of the RPR experts and 22 journalists.
The Ukraine Week in the European Parliament was organized for the first time in history on February 29 – March 2 in Brussels, which is an unprecedented event for Ukraine and confirms that despite numerous challenges the European Union faces, such as the migrant crisis, possible secession of the UK from the EU, the war in Syria, ISIS, and other problems, the issue of support of the Ukrainian reforms is still on the European agenda.
The event was dedicated to the reform of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine initiated by the European Parliament. The mission was headed by a supporter of Ukraine Pat Cox. The Ukraine Week was a favorable opportunity to discuss the priorities of the Ukrainian reforms – in 2016, the judicial reform, the anticorruption reform, the reform of public administration, and the election reform – with the authorized representatives of a number of European Union institutions: Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, representatives of the European External Action Service and Support Group for Ukraine and the Members of the European Parliament.
Establishment of systemic cooperation and exchange of latest updates on the top-priority reforms with the European colleagues is critically important for the RPR. Based on past experiences, systemic changes, such as corruption counteraction and civil service reform, are possible when the agents of changes in power pool their efforts with journalists, civil society, and international partners, bringing pressure for changes.
In this context we consider it really effective to link donor aid to the clear-cut requirements for the reforms in Ukraine, to the ‘conditionalities’, when any further aid is suspended should the government fail to fulfill them. We have stressed this during the meetings with our European colleagues,
says Olena Halushka, international relations manager of the Reanimation Package of Reforms.
As a coalition of representatives of civil society, the RPR won’t have the Ukrainian program in the EU formed without Ukrainians. If we want the Europeans to treat us as partners and respect us, we have not to come to Brussels and argue whose prime minister is the best, but to suggest concrete solutions in priority areas.
One of such areas is visa liberalization. The European Commission has, definitely, paid attention to the amendments to the law on e-declarations and called the Verkhovna Rada to re-vote this document. If this requirement is not met, the Ukrainians shall not be entitled to the visa-free regime. Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anticorruption Action Center, fears that over the course of this year the government officials will simply make their fraudulently acquired property over to the people living elsewhere.
The MPs cannot make themselves declare their property properly and assume the responsibility for the non-declared assets. They are afraid and claim that our law enforcement bodies are bad. Yes, we all know that our law enforcement bodies can intimidate ordinary people and take everything away. But the MPs recalled it only when they smelled the scent of trouble for themselves,
says Daria Kaleniuk.
She says that the MPs might overplay everything in this way – if visa-free regime is not granted, they might say that it is the ‘Europeans’ who are at fault. At the same time, the European Commission has already issued its positive conclusion regarding Georgia. We could have not waited until the referendum in the Netherlands, but could have fulfilled all the anticorruption requirements of the EU back in December-January. Thus, we would have given the Dutch a positive message that Ukraine is fulfilling its obligations.
The judicial reform, which will be one of the top priorities for the RPR in 2016, was one of the key Ukrainian issues discussed in Brussels. The topic is really complicated, yet important, as according to the latest opinion polls, people trust the Ukrainian courts even less than the Russian TV channels. Mykhailo Zhernakov, expert of the Judicial Reform RPR Group, member of the RPR Board, thinks that it is too dangerous to merely grant independence to the judges in office, as many foreign experts recommend. Therefore, the RPR believes that the constitutional amendments regarding judiciary should be adopted only simultaneously with package of implementation laws on the terms and mechanisms of transition to a three-tier structure of courts, the procedure of competitive selection of judges to the newly established or reorganized courts, etc. The idea of establishing a ‘hybrid’ court with the participation of Ukrainian and foreign judges to consider the cases of grand corruption (jurisdiction of the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine and the Specialized Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office), human rights violations, terrorism, and crimes against humanity was also discussed in Brussels.
This court is key one at the stage of transition at the very least, while we will be pushing forward a comprehensive judicial reform. There is a risk that achievements of other reforms might roll back due to the corrupt courts. We will continue cooperating with our international partners on these issues,
says Mykhailo Zhernakov.
During the Ukraine Week at the European Parliament, the Media Law Institute jointly with the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies held a session on counteraction to the Russian propaganda ‘Game of Trolls’. Taras Shevchenko, Director of the Media Law institute, Co-Chairman of the RPR Board, said that it is important not only to document the present-day manipulations with the society, but to answer how the war in Donbas has started and which role the informational component has played in the incitement of hatred.
Such events in strategic cities are very important, as they help to bring the information about the positive developments in Ukraine to the foreigners. What we do is the best counterpropaganda to the Russian activities,
summed up Taras Shevchenko.
The RPR representatives took part in the events in Brussels within the project “International Advocacy of Ukrainian Reforms” (during the “Ukraine Week in the European Parliament”) with the assistance of the Renaissance International Foundation.