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07 December 2020, 14:43

11th Parliamentary Association Committee meeting

On December 7, a Parliamentary Association Committee meeting attended by Ukrainian MPs, the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration and European parliamentarians took place.

The participants discussed relations between Ukraine and the EU, in particular, their parliamentary dimension, Ukraine's implementation of the Association Agreement with the European Union and reform priorities. Also the situation in Crimea and Donbas, as well as events in Belarus was on the agenda.

PAC co-chair Vadym Halaychuk noted the importance of the Ukraine-EU summit, which took place in October. Ukraine received approval from European partners for its intentions to fully integrate into the EU — Vadym Halaychuk said. He also noted that next year Ukraine would use all opportunities to renew the trade part of the Association Agreement with the EU. The PAC co-chair informed that the deputies were preparing a number of important draft laws to be adopted in 2021. These laws, according to Halaychuk, will significantly help Ukraine to fulfil its obligations under the Association Agreement.

Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna provided a brief overview on Ukraine’s progress in implementing the Association Agreement. She stated that the Government and the Parliament were intensifying their efforts on Ukraine’s joining to the ACAA agreement — the so-called «industrial visa-free regime» with the EU. Olha Stefanishyna stated that despite the challenges, the Verkhovna Rada had been able to pass important laws aimed at implementing the Association Agreement. These include laws amending the Customs Code and the law on inland waterway transport.

Ukraine's progress in implementing some reforms was also noted by Luke Devin, Executive Director of the European External Action Service for Europe and Central Asia. He stated that Ukraine had successfully coped with decentralization and launched land reforms. However, Luke Devin also stressed the negative trends observed by the EU in Ukraine. This is, in particular, the decision of the Constitutional Court to abolish criminal liability for false declarations. According to Mr. Devin, the judiciary remains an extremely important area for reform in Ukraine. He stressed that the EU called on the Government of Ukraine and the Verkhovna Rada to promptly restore anti-corruption legislation. Also, according to Mr. Devin, there are still many challenges in Ukraine related to the fight against corruption. This includes, in particular, a € 4.6 billion fraud lawsuit in the PrivatBank case. Luke Devin stated that the EU would further support Ukraine on the path of reforms.

Kateryna Maternova, Deputy Director General for Neighbourhood Policy and EU Enlargement, who heads the European Task Force to support Ukraine in implementing structural reforms, also reminded about the need to restore anti-corruption legislation in the structure of general reform of the justice system in Ukraine. According to Ms. Maternova, this would make Ukraine stronger against both external and internal threats.

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Chair of the Committee on Ukraine's Integration into the EU, said that despite some positive changes, including legislative ones, in the implementation of the Agreement, the pace of its implementation had slowed down over the past year. In 2020, Ukraine fulfilled the Agreement by only about 30%. “We are concerned that the reform of the judiciary is stuck, the decisions of the Constitutional Court have hit the anti-corruption bodies. Now a lot needs to be done to ensure the independence of our basic institutions, such as the National Bank or the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine”, — Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze said. The Chair of the Committee also expressed concern about the reform of public administration, as, according to her, this destroyed reform should help to carry out all the transformations necessary for the implementation of the Association Agreement. Now it has to be restored from the ashes. The Chair of the Committee also drew the attention of MEPs to the political persecution of the opposition, volunteers, veterans and to the abuse of law enforcement agencies against political opponents. “We are seriously concerned of actions against opposition TV channels, which transmit a point of view that does not necessarily agree with the main party line in Ukraine. We see that law enforcement agencies are attacking such media channels as Espresso, Pryamyj or even Suspilne TV, and this has been documented by independent media associations”, — Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze stated.

At the PAC meeting, the parties also discussed the political situation in Belarus. Luke Devin said the EU was reviewing relations with the country. According to Luke Devin, the European Union is reducing cooperation with the Belarusian authorities as much as possible, but will maintain it where it is needed, in particular, in matters that affect the lives of the Belarusian people.

During the meeting, the Ukrainian side also informed the MEPs about the numerous violations by the occupiers of the “silence” regime in the Donbas, as well as about Russia's violations of human rights in Crimea and the militarization of the peninsula. The People's Deputy Rustam Umerov informed the participants of the dialogue about the plans of the newly created inter-factional deputy association “Crimean Platform”. Its purpose, according to Umerov, is to create an international platform for the deoccupation of Crimea. This format, Mr. Umerov said, covers several levels: the first level — political, which will be joined by the heads of foreign states and governments; second one — heads of foreign ministries and defence ministers; the third is the inter-parliamentary level, and the fourth is the level of experts and civil society. The first summit of the “Crimean platform” may take place next year.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishina, the offline meeting of the Association Council will take place in early February.