G7 supports Venice Commission recommendations on e-declarations for anti-corruption activists in Ukraine

 The G7 Ambassadors in Ukraine have announced that e-declarations requirements for anti-corruption activists in Ukraine are not in line with Ukraine's international obligations.

"E-declaration requirements for anti-corruption activists and international SOE supervisory board members are not consistent with Ukraine’s international obligations and best practices, negatively affect international assistance and obstruct the fight against corruption," the Twitter account of the Canadian Chair of the G7 Ambassadors' Support Group in Kyiv has said on Tuesday, March 20.

"G7 firmly stands behind the recommendations of the Venice Commission to cancel the requirements and looks forward to a legislative solution that implements these recommendations or postpones application of the law by April 1," it said.

As reported, the Verkhovna Rada on March 23, 2017, approved draft law No. 6172, which exempt privates, sergeants and junior officers from the obligation to file e-declarations, but obliged anti-corruption organizations to do this (leaders or members of the supreme management body of public organizations engaged in activities on countering corruption), along with members of public councils under state agencies, candidates for elected offices.

On July 10, 2017, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko introduced a package of bills concerning e-declaration exemptions for anti-corruption public organizations.

On March 16, the Venice Commission published recommendations saying that the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR recommend that Ukraine "cancel the e-declaration requirements for anti-corruption activists introduced by Law No. 1975-VIII of 23 March 2017, as foreseen by draft law No. 6674, and ensure that the cancellation enters into force before the deadline of 1 April 2018 for submission of the first e-declarations by anti-corruption activists."

Draft laws No. 6674 and No. 6675 are designed to replace previously imposed and criticized e-declaration requirements for anti-corruption activists by a regime of burdensome tax reporting and enhanced public disclosure of detailed financial information, to be submitted by civil society organizations (public associations) whose total annual income exceeds 300 subsistence minimums (currently approximately EUR 14,350) and individual beneficiaries of international technical assistance. The new financial disclosure regime would conflict with human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely, the freedom of association, the right to respect for private life and the prohibition of discrimination. The Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR cannot see a need for such amendments and recommend that they be reconsidered in their entirety. If the authorities nevertheless maintain their plans to introduce new financial reporting and disclosure obligations, it would be necessary to clearly substantiate the need for such amendments and to significantly improve the existing draft provisions so as to ensure their legitimacy and proportionality.

"In their current form, the stringent disclosure requirements, coupled with severe sanctions in case of non-compliance, are likely to have a chilling effect on the civil society and may even jeopardize the very existence of a number of civil society organizations which may lose their non-profit status as a sanction," it said.