During a visit to the Ukrainian capital Kiev on Monday the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini issued a stern warning to her hosts as she urged Ukrainian authorities to step up their efforts to fight rampant corruption and to move swiftly to establish an independent anticorruption court.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, Mogherini said, “the EU expects and wants to see more consolidated progress in the fight against corruption,” before later adding that anticorruption institutions “must be allowed to do their work independently, with enough powers and resources to investigate, prosecute, and eventually ensure the conviction of those responsible for corruption.”
Mogherini’s visit to Kiev comes at a time when Ukraine’s increasingly discouraged pro-democracy and rule of law activists and lawmakers, as well as their allies in Europe, are beginning to grow impatient with the slow pace of reforms in the country.
Four years after the pro-Western EuroMaidan Revolution ousted former Moscow ally President Viktor Yanukovych from power, the sweeping reforms that were expected in the months following the revolution and aimed at making Ukraine more transparent and law-abiding increasingly appear to have stalled.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has grown increasingly critical of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for his failure to follow through on establishing international legal practices in the country. The IMF has been steadfast in its position that the establishment of an independent anti-corruption court is the key benchmark by which Ukraine will be judged before the organisation is ready to consider releasing additional loans to the Ukrainian government.
A proposal adopted by the European Commission on March 9 for a macro-financial assistance programme worth up to €1 billion earmarked for economic structural reforms echoed the IMF’s frustration with Ukraine’s authorities and their unwillingness to tackle the depth of the country’s notorious levels of corruption.
The Commission tied the disbursement of the loans to the implementation of reforms and a concerted effort to fight against corruption after Ukraine failed in January to meet the EU’s conditions for the third and final tranche of a €12.8 billion loan under the previous aid program.
According to the new financial assistance proposal – which still requires an approval from the European Parliament and European Council – the programme will be conditional and based on Kiev’s ability to show measurable progress in its anti-corruption drive.
Poroshenko claimed after meeting with Mogherini that an anticorruption court would be established “in the spring” and in accordance with a draft bill passed by Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, on March 1.
The bill, however, has come under intense criticism from the IMF and many in Europe who say the basic provisions of the draft law on the creation of the court do not meet the standards set by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission – an advisory body of the Council, composed of independent experts specialising in the field of constitutional law.
The IMF already released a statement in mid-January expressing its concerns with the anticorruption court bill saying, “several provisions of the bill are not consistent with the commitments of the authorities,” adding, “In its current form…we (the IMF) would not be able to support the draft law.”
While in Kiev, Mogherini called on the Ukrainian authorities to establish “an independent anticorruption court, fully in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission, which would also help the business environment and the investment climate.”