EVENTS

Ukraine: New Restrictions on Anti-Corruption Groups

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Following President Poroshenko signing a measure that will increase government monitoring into civil society groups, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“Ukraine’s passage of intrusive reporting requirements targeting anti-corruption activists and NGOs undermines their work, which is essential for restoring public trust in the government,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “The new requirements protect politicians unhappy with public scrutiny and allow them to retaliate against those involved in anti-corruption investigations. Moreover, the law appears to violatestandards established by the Council of Europe, which prohibit arbitrary and discriminatory intrusion into independent civil society activity.”

Ukraine is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2016, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2016, and receives a democracy score of 4.68, on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2016.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

Harms called the “disappointment” of the amendments to the law on Declaration

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MEP Rebecca Harms believes that the President of Ukraine was supposed to sign changes to e-Declaration, which is to submit the electronic Declaration has ordered anti-corruption activists. This is stated in the statement Harms, reports European truth.

“The President’s decision not to veto, but to sign the amendments to the law on electronic Declaration – is a huge disappointment, – said Harms.

In her opinion, the amendments should be revised. “Special orientation of the amendments on NGOs active in fighting corruption, easing the rules of transparency, this is a significant step backwards in the reform process in Ukraine”, – she added.

Sanctions against Russia and their prolongation show that the EU has civilized mechanisms to combat uncontrolled military aggression of the Kremlin

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The two-day Boris Nemtsov Forum, held on November 17-18 in Brussels, was devoted to the dialogue between Russia and the EU. The key topics of discussion were the impact of sanctions and resistance to the Kremlin propaganda. The forum, organized by Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom, was attended both by representatives of the Russian opposition and political activists from all over Europe. Head of the NGO “Bridge Ukraine-EU” Natalia Sevidova also joined the event.

The participants of the forum agreed that it is necessary to focus on implementing new personal sanctions against Russian officials. They say that the European sanctions act as an “awakening factor” for Russia. Leader of “Open Russia” Mikhail Khodorkovsky said he is willing to foster dialogue between Europe and the Russian civil society. At the plenary session the head of the European Parliament Martin Schulz said that relations between Russia and the EU experience “difficult times,” because of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, while Russia’s non-commitment to obligations under the Minsk agreements “creates enormous tension in relations between Russia and Europe.” Stressing that the European institutions want that “EU and Russia work together in future,” Mr. Schultz said that “it is necessary to provide a common legal framework.” As a negative example of Russian authorities’ conduct, the head of the European Parliament mentioned the use of the veto in adopting the most important documents in the Security Council that “violates international structure and stability in the world.” He also noted that the European Parliament has “frozen relations with the Russian parliament.”

Great contribution to the Forum has made ALDE faction led by Guy Verhofstadt who said that “the EU should be open to ordinary Russians.” His recipe in supporting good relations between Russians and Europeans is in expanding personal contacts with scientists, entrepreneurs, artists and many others.

Vice president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Deputy Speaker of the Seimas of Lithuania Petras Auštrevičius, MEP, who has long supported Ukraine and is making every effort to end the war in Donbas, was moderating the second panel of discussion.

The head of the NGO “Bridge Ukraine-EU” Natalia Sevidova said the European sanctions against Russians have “influence,” which shows that aggressive and uncivilized policy of kremlin leaders isolates all Russian society from the rest of the civilized world.

“Sanctions against Russia and their prolongation show that the EU has civilized mechanisms to combat uncontrolled military aggression of the Kremlin,” – emphasized Natalia Sevidova.

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Commissioner Oettinger in Kyiv to discuss challenges and opportunities that the Digital Single Market represents for Ukraine

Today and tomorrow, Günther H. Oettinger, European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, is in Ukraine.

During this visit, Commissioner Oettinger is inter alia expected to meet Volodymyr Groysman, Prime Minister, Stepan Kubiv, Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Economic Development and Trade, and Oleksandr Danchenko, Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament’s ICT Committee to discuss cooperation in the field of digital economy and society.

The Commissioner will also speak at a high-level policy event which will explore the challenges and opportunities that the European Union’s Digital Single Market represents for Ukraine.

The Commissioner has been inspired by the success of the Energy Community which extends the EU’s internal energy market rules to countries in South-East Europe and beyond, and hopes to explore a similar common vision of a Digital Community between the EU and Ukraine.

Commissioner Oettinger intends to organise a Ministerial level meeting with the six Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine) in early autumn in Brussels in order to continue the discussion on the creation of the Digital Community.

Activists of the ‘Feel by Yourself” initiative presented a Video about its Activity

The initiators of the national project ‘Feel by Yourself” created a brief video, which refers to the first phase of the project – a public inventory of public places.

The authors of the video say that it is about the inspection of public places, which are free to all people, regardless of their health: government buildings, hospitals, and educational institutions, pharmacies, shops, apartments and so on. Practice shows that some buildings are considered accessible only formally, but in most cases it is difficult for people in wheelchairs to get into such buildings, and sometimes even dangerous

Fact-finding mission of MEPs from the Committee on Budgetary Control to Ukraine on 16-19 May

A delegation of four members of European Parliament will visit Ukraine from 16 till 19 May for a fact-finding mission into the EU financial assistance provided since Maidan revolution to support Ukraine’s stabilisation and reform process. The members of the Budgetary Control Committee responsible for controlling the spending of EU money visit Ukraine to see how the aid is being used on the ground. They also want to know how Ukraine is coping with corruption and whether it affects the EU funds.

4 Members of Parliament will take part in the mission:
∙ Ms Inge Gräßle (Head of Delegation, EPP, Germany),
∙ Mr Joachim Zeller (EPP, Germany),
∙ Mr Derek Vaughan (S&D, UK)
∙ Mr Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR, Poland).

The delegation will be accompanied by a Member of the Court of Auditors (Mr Szabolcs Fazakas (tbc)), representatives of the EU Delegation to Ukraine and two representatives of the Support Group for Ukraine of DG NEAR of the European Commission.
The program of the visit is split into two parts.
The first part in the Lviv region aims to monitor EU funded projects and trans-border cooperation with the EU. The delegation plans to go outside the Lviv and visit projects in towns like Drohobych or Sambir and villages like Morshyn, Pisochne or Luky where EU funded projects have been conducted.
The second part of the delegation will take place in Kyiv where the Members will meet with the central authorities – the Verkhovna Rada and the newly sworn in government. During the meetings they will ask how Ukraine is coping with systemic corruption and how is it managing centrally the EU funds. In the Parliament the CONT Delegation will meet with its homologue in the spirit of the recently signed cooperation agreement between the European Parliament and the Verkhovna Rada. The delegation will also meet with the anti-corruption bodies created after the Maidan revolution. Meetings with the civil society, anti-corruption watchdogs and investigative journalists are also foreseen.

European Commission proposes visa-free travel for citizens of Ukraine

The European Commission is today proposing to the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament to lift visa requirements for the citizens of Ukraine by transferring Ukraine to the list of countries whose citizens can travel without a visa to the Schengen area.

This proposal comes after the Commission gave a positive assessment last December, confirming that Ukraine successfully met all benchmarks under the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP).

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “Today we follow up on our commitment to propose short-stay visa-free travel to the EU for Ukrainian citizens with biometric passports – facilitating people-to-people contacts and strengthening business, social and cultural ties between the EU and Ukraine. This is the result of the success of the Ukrainian government in achieving far-reaching and difficult reforms in the Justice and Home Affairs area and beyond, impacting on areas such as the rule of law and justice reform. I am very satisfied with the progress achieved, it is an important achievement for the citizens of Ukraine, and I hope that the European Parliament and the Council will adopt our proposal very soon.”

Once the proposal will be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, Ukrainian citizens with biometric passports will no longer require visas when travelling for short stays of up to 90 days to the Schengen area. The visa-free travel will apply to all EU Member States except for Ireland and the UK, as well as the four Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). The exemption concerns only short-stay visas valid for up to 90 days of travel in any 180-day period for business, tourist or family purposes. The visa exemption does not provide for the right to work in the EU.

Other entry conditions for accessing the Schengen area will continue to apply, including the need to be able to prove sufficient financial means and the purpose of the travel.

EU supports rural development in the context of decentralization

On 19th April 2016 the International conference on “Rural Development in the Context of Decentralization – Status, Opportunities and Threats” took place in Kyiv. It was organised by the Ministry of Regional Development, Construction, Housing and Communal Services of Ukraine with the support of the EU and Government of Switzerland. Ukraine has kicked off significant decentralisation reforms which has led to increased funding and development opportunities at the level of local self-governments.

During the conference Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Regional Development, Construction, Housing and Communal Services of Ukraine Gennady Zubko stated: “Complete change of management system will allow Ukraine to embark confidently on a path of rapid economic growth. Delegating authority and money to regions, the State actually provides people with a powerful tool for development,” adding that “The more territories are under the authority of local communities, the more financial support they will get from the state. Recovery of the Ukrainian economy is to start from these 169 hromadas, which have already assumed responsibility and are moving forward.”

“Finding the right balance between enhancing productivity and exports on the large scale farms and distribution of benefits to the small scale farmers for the sake of the sustainable territorial development is a crucial task for the current policy makers,” said Berend de Groot, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Ukraine, during his speech. He added that “Transforming Ukraine into the agricultural superpower, as it wants to be and it should be, requires effective governance by all actors working towards the shared objectives.”

Representatives of both central and local government, the European Union, business, and international organisations took part in the conference. They discussed new opportunities of reforms at the intersection between regional policy, decentralisation and the development of agriculture. Two panel discussions of the conference were devoted to the future of rural areas in Ukraine, including human capital in rural areas, ways to preserve and develop it. During the conference, participants also discussed recommendations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The broadcast of the conference is available at the following link: http://bit.ly/22GIoXt.

Statement by the Spokesperson on suspension of Mejlis activities of the Crimean Tatars

Yesterday’s decision by the so-called prosecutor of Crimea to suspend the activities of Mejlis, a self-governing body of the Crimean Tatars, is extremely worrying and constitutes a grave attack on the rights of the Crimean Tatars. This decision, taken in the context of the on-going court case aiming at banning its activities as an extremist organisation, must be reversed immediately.

The EU has consistently reiterated its concern about the deterioration of the human rights situation on the Crimean peninsula since its illegal annexation by the Russian Federation in 2014, including as regards the persecution of persons belonging to minorities. The EU reiterates its call for full compliance with international human rights standards and other obligations under international law.

Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn on the appointment of Prime Minister Groysman and the new government in Ukraine

Today’s appointment of a new government in Ukraine, headed by Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, is a crucial development at a time when new momentum in the country is badly needed. Having met Mr Groysman in his previous capacity as the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada many times, including very recently, we look forward to working with him to build a stronger Ukraine, on the basis of fundamental reform and accountable governance.

Substantial efforts to implement reforms have been made in Ukraine since 2014. The momentum offered with the appointment of the new Prime Minister and government must be seized now, first and foremost to renew trust and ownership of Ukraine’s citizens.

The European Union remains committed to supporting Ukraine politically and through financial and technical assistance in its efforts to implement key reforms, modernise the country and fight corruption. In this context, we will support the new government to ensure that key political and economic institutions function efficiently and transparently, and that the rule of law is strengthened. In this regard, prosecution structures genuinely committed to vigorous reform will be of utmost importance.

We trust that the appointment of the new government will also provide new momentum to the implementation of the Minsk agreements and we call on all parties to follow through on their commitments