Speech by Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Conference of the Council of Europe on the Action Plan for Ukraine 2011-2014
Kyiv, 10 September 2012
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Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Less than a year ago, Minister Gryshchenko and I, launched the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine. Today, we are meeting to take stock of the programme so far, and to identify in which areas there has been progress and where more needs to be done.
The Action Plan, prepared jointly by the Ukrainian authorities and the Council of Europe, was specifically designed to support Ukraine in fulfilling its obligations as a member State of the Organisation, to consolidate its democratic achievements and to help the country meet the new challenges.
It is important to underline that this is a joint product – our Ukrainian partners are fully involved in the design of the action plan, its management and evaluation, they take an active part in the co-ordination and programming mechanisms.
Through my participation in this meeting today, I wanted to confirm the importance I personally attach to the implementation of reforms in Ukraine. The Action Plan is ambitious, it has a total volume of 22 million Euros, and it targets crucial areas of reform. Its main strands focus on judiciary, criminal justice, local self-government and constitutional reform.
When it comes to funding, the news is positive. Of the total of over 22 million, the current funding gap is now less than 2 million Euros. In September last year this gap was still over 13 million Euros. This is a remarkable and encouraging result, especially if we take into account that this is the very first year of the action plan. I should like to thank all our contributors, the European Union, but also a number of our member States in particular Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Norway, for their contributions.
This support is strong evidence of the concerns among Ukraine’s international partners that the country may become more and more isolated. I want to stop this worrying trend, and the Action Plan is an important tool to support Ukraine in this respect.
Let me address the main areas of concern, which are also on the agenda of my regular dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities and also subjects of discussions with President Yanukovich and Minister Gryschenko during my visit to Ukraine.
In the field of justice, the Council of Europe, through the Action Plan, provided assistance in reviewing the Ukrainian judicial system and laws regulating the principles of the independence and the efficiency of the judiciary. Several laws have been appraised and notably the constitutional amendments related to the justice sector, the Law on the Judiciary and the Status of Judges, the Law on the Bar and the Criminal Procedure Code.
The adoption of the new Ukrainian Criminal Procedure Code is a good example of co-operation, proving that the joint Action Plan can be very effective in promoting change.
The new Code, which will enter into force in November, includes most of the recommendations of the Council of Europe, and provides, in principle, a good foundation for a criminal justice system, which is fair and effective.
The Council of Europe expects that the new Criminal Procedure Code will play a key role in the proper implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights, ultimately leading to a decrease in the number of complaints to the European Court of Human Rights.
Several judgments of the Court revealed persisting structural problems in Ukraine.
The following are the most important:
· excessively long detention on remand,
· ill-treatment by police,
· poor conditions of detention,
· non-enforcement or lengthy enforcement of domestic judicial decisions and excessive length of civil and criminal proceedings.
Obviously, the adoption of the Criminal Procedure Code is not sufficient to address these structural problems. It is now crucial to move swiftly to its implementation and to ensure that the entire legal framework is also in line with the European standards, notably the reform of the Prosecutor’s office.
I regret that we have not yet received the Law on the Amendments to the Law on the Prosecutor’s office and I hope that this will happen shortly. We stand ready to provide the required legal expertise for that. This is very important. The credibility and the sustainability of the entire process on the new Criminal Procedure Code depend on the co-operation on related legislation.
The next phase of the Action Plan should also focus on co-operation regarding the adoption of secondary legislation, institutional guidance, capacity building for judges, prosecutors and lawyers.
Against the background of the case against Yulia Tymoshenko, I believe that it is time to take a fresh look at the Ukrainian Criminal Code and in particular to review articles 364 and 365 of the Code. I know that there are different views on the gas contract with Russia. I repeat what I have said on previous occasions, namely that politicians should be held accountable for their decisions in Parliament and before the electorate. At the end of the day, it will be our Court in Strasbourg who will examine all the evidence and have the final say in this case.
Ukraine will be in the international spotlight again during the electoral campaign and forthcoming elections. The way the campaign is conducted, and how free, fair and orderly the electoral process are, will be decisive for Ukraine’s reputation.
Attention will focus on freedom of expression. Media freedom is an important objective of the Action Plan. We helped with the assessment of the draft law “On protection of professional activities of journalists”. I know that the Verkhovna Rada has on its agenda a number of amendments to reinforce access to public information and strengthen media freedoms. In the coming months of the Action Plan, we expect to focus on the full and unbiased implementation of the media legislation.
Another important area of the reform process is the fight against corruption. Corruption is a cancer in many democratic societies today. One cannot fight it without an independent judiciary, free media and a Parliament that is willing and able to exert proper control over the Executive.
A major problem in Ukraine and many other countries, as I perceive it, is the influence of non-transparent relationships between business, politics and the media. This is damaging to democracy. We have to fight it.
In the area of local government reforms, we have worked closely with the Ukrainian Government, on the preparation of the National Concept of Civil Service in local government structures, approved by the Government in December 2011.
However, the concept for territorial reform remains to be adopted and the compliance of the national legislation and practice with the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government is not yet fully ensured.
Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me conclude by underlining the importance of this Action Plan and of the necessary reforms in Ukraine for the country’s reputation. The stakes and the people’s expectations are simply too high to let them fail. You can count on my full support and determination to help you carry out this task successfully.
Thank you very much.