19:01 08.11.2023

European Commission publishes report on Ukraine, notes progress in reform

7 min read
European Commission publishes report on Ukraine, notes progress in reform

The European Commission has published its report on Ukraine, saying that Kyiv made good progress in taking seven steps set out in its conclusions issued in June 2022 and took additional measures to complement and consolidate these achievements.

Thus, the European Commission recommends the European Council to open EU accession negotiations with Ukraine. Also, the European Council is recommended to adopt the framework of negotiations as soon as Ukraine carried out the following:

- enact a law proposed by the government increasing the staffing cap for the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine;

- remove from the law on corruption prevention the provisions restricting the NACP's [National Agency on Corruption Prevention] powers to continued verification of assets that have already undergone the verification process and limiting NACP's powers to verify property acquired by declarants before joining the public service, without prejudice to the rules applying to national security during wartime;

- enact a law regulating lobbying in line with European standards, as part of the anti-oligarch action plan;

- enact a law addressing the remaining Venice Commission recommendations from June 2023 and October 2023 linked to the Law on national minorities, also addressing the Venice Commission recommendations linked to the laws on State language, media and education.

"Ukraine has to continue to fight against corruption by building a further track record of corruption investigations and convictions. The Commission will continuously monitor the progress and compliance in all areas related to the opening of negotiations and report to the Council by March 2024," the European Commission said.

According to the report on Ukraine's progress from June 2022 until June 2023, the work of theVerkhovna Rada continues to be marked by extraordinary circumstances related to the Russian military aggression. However, legislative tasks are carried out systematically.

Ukraine has some level of preparation in the area of public administration reform, with limited progress made during the reporting period.

On the functioning of the judiciary, Ukraine has some level of preparation and must continue its efforts. Legislative and institutional changes are needed to ensure stronger disciplinary system for prosecutors. To increase transparency, efficiency and access to justice, Ukraine should also continue its efforts on digitalisation of the judiciary. Systemic measures still need to be taken to advance the reform of enforcement of court decisions, including the enforcement of decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.

To improve the effectiveness of investigation of international crimes and cooperation with the International Criminal Court, Ukraine should further harmonise its legal framework with the applicable international standards.

The European Commission also said that to ensure the impact and sustainability of anti-corruption efforts, Ukraine should continue building a credible track record of investigations, prosecutions, and final court decisions in high-level corruption cases, including the seizure and confiscation of criminal assets. Timely and steady implementation of the 2023-2025 state anti-corruption programme should also be pursued. To cope with increasing workloads, the number of NABU staff, SAPO [Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office] prosecutors and High Anti-Corruption Court judges should be increased. Furthermore, SAPO should be further protected from possible undue interference by improving the selection procedures for the Head of SAPO and its key officials, increasing its organisational and procedural autonomy, and improving its accountability framework.

Ukraine's legal framework and operational capacity to fight organised crime remain weak. Ukraine should also launch the national serious organised crime threat assessment in line with EU standards and build the capacity to implement it. The legal framework and institutional capacity still need to be improved as regards financial investigations, asset recovery and management. Transparent and merit-based selection of management and staff, along with a strong accountability system should be introduced in the Bureau of Economic Security, a key agency tasked to fight economic crime.

On fundamental rights, Ukraine complies overall with international human rights instruments and has ratified most international conventions on the protection of fundamental rights. The number of registered discriminations against minorities, including against LGBTIQ persons and national minorities as well as antisemitic acts, has strongly decreased. On the rights of persons belonging to national minorities, Ukraine needs to address the remaining recommendations of the Venice Commission Opinion of June 2023 and the follow-up Opinion of October 2023. Further efforts are also needed to ensure that persons with disabilities can enjoy their rights.

Only limited progress was made in the field of prevention of torture and ill treatment in prisons and other forms of detention. A law on personal data protection, aligned with the EU acquis, should be adopted. Similarly, support for the Roma community needs to be stepped up with a concrete and targeted action plan.

According to the European Commission, the situation of journalists remains precarious, both economically and – since the start of the full-scale invasion – physically. Ukraine needs to envisage new ways to ensure a post-war structure for pluralistic and independent non-online media (in particular television), including the long-term outlook of the public broadcaster and independence of the national regulator.

Due to the impacts of Russia's ongoing full-scale invasion as well as the pre-existing structural economic challenges, the Ukrainian economy is between an early stage and some level of preparation towards establishing a functioning market economy.

On Ukraine's ability to assume the obligation of EU membership, the country continued to work on alignment with the acquis in many areas.

The internal market cluster is key to Ukraine's preparations for the requirements of the EU internal market and is of high relevance for the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. Good progress was made in the area of free movement of capital and intellectual property law. Some progress was achieved in several areas, particularly in financial services, free movement of goods, right of establishment and freedom to provide services, and company law. Progress was limited in the area of competition policy as well as consumer and health protection, with no progress in the area of freedom of movement for workers due to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Some progress was made on taxation and education and culture. Limited progress was made in social policy and employment, enterprise and industrial policy and science and research. No progress could be made – due Russia's full-scale invasion which demanded extraordinary economic policy measures – on economic and monetary policy.

Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine has been highly detrimental to the transport infrastructure, environment, and climate. Progress was achieved in several areas within the cluster, with good progress on environment, some progress on energy and Trans-European networks, while progress was limited in the area of climate change and transport policy.

In the areas covered by the cluster on resources, agriculture and cohesion, progress was achieved in particular in three areas, namely some progress in agriculture and rural development, food safety and veterinary (SPS) and phytosanitary policy as well as in the area of fisheries and aquaculture. Progress was limited in regional policy and the coordination of structural instruments and financial and budgetary provisions.

In the external relations cluster, Ukraine has good level of preparation. As regards the foreign, security and defence policy, Ukraine has made good progress as it has increased the alignment rate with relevant EU decisions and declarations of the EU's common foreign and security policy to 93% (2022). Progress was limited in alignment with the EU's trade policy.