Ukraine and Moldova received the status of a candidate country for the European Union. On June 17, the European Commission gave its positive recommendation regarding the application for membership, and already on June 23, the Council of the European Union finally approved this status for Ukraine and Moldova.
Conditions of application for Ukraine
To join the European Union, a country must meet the Copenhagen criteria:
– political criterion: stable functioning of democratic institutions, rule of law, observance of human rights and respect for the rights of national minorities;
– economic criterion: functioning of the market economy;
– legislative criterion: the country’s ability to implement EU rules and undertake membership obligations.
In its conclusion, the European Commission put forward a number of requirements for Ukraine to maintain its candidate status. That is, it is, so to speak, ” candidacy in advance”. After all, the European Commission usually determines whether a certain country is ready to apply or not. So, this is a kind of hybrid: candidate status with the following conditions.
It is worth noting that after the approval of the candidate status by the Council of the EU, the Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Olga Stefanishyna stated that the decision of the Council is unconditional. However, this does not mean that Ukraine should not implement the specified requirements. After all, without their implementation, it is not considered possible to start the process of accession negotiations.
The requirements relate to seven areas, including anti-corruption .
Problematic issues of anti-corruption hinder European integration
As you know, over the past 8 years, the process of anti-corruption reform has been actively taking place in Ukraine: the creation of anti-corruption institutions, the adoption of relevant legislative changes, etc. The conclusion of the European Commission mentions an impressive track records of what was done by Ukraine, namely:
– all key international conventions in the field of anti-corruption have been signed , in particular the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC);
– international recommendations on corruption monitoring mechanisms, in particular GRECO, have been implemented ;
– all forms of corruption have been criminalized and legislation has been adopted to eliminate conflicts of interest, protect whistle-blowers , and provide a transparent party financing mechanism;
– a comprehensive system of submitting electronic declarations for civil servants has been introduced;
– transparency of the system of public procurement is ensured ;
– anti-corruption institutions were created and their effective functioning was ensured: the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAP) and the Higher Anti-Corruption Court (SCAC), as well as the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NACP) and the Agency for Investigation and Asset Management (ARMA).
However, the conclusion also highlighted problematic points, which will be discussed below.
Appointment of the head of SAP
It’s no secret that a competition for the position of head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office is underway in Ukraine. The contest is almost over and the identity of the winner is almost determined. However, the process of announcing the winner of the competition and appointing him to the position has been blocked for more than a month.
In its conclusion, the European Commission noted that it is necessary to urgently appoint the person who won the competition to the position of head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. After all, it is of great importance.
Thus, the European Commission took an unprecedented step, demanding the appointment of a specific person for the first time in history.
Independence of anti-corruption institutions
This point flows smoothly from the previous one.
The conclusion states that the independence of anti-corruption institutions is crucial. That is why it was emphasized to conduct a transparent and open procedure for the election of the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine. After all, the term of office of the former director of NABU expired in April this year.
However, the specified requirements refer to the short-term perspective. In addition, experts note that in addition to the election and appointment of the heads of NABU and SAP, it is necessary to elect and appoint a new head of the High Anti-Corruption Court, since the term of office of the previous head of the VAKS has recently expired. And it is also necessary to elect and appoint the head of the Agency for Search and Asset Management, which has been without a head for 2 years.
In addition, the conclusion notes that sometimes investigations into corruption offenses in Ukraine are conducted in a biased manner, and law enforcement agencies are subject to political interference. It was also pointed out that there is a problem of insufficient interaction between anti-corruption institutions. These phenomena are not considered acceptable in a country that is a candidate for joining the European Union. Therefore, the number of officials brought to justice remains unlimited.
Despite this, the European Commission drew attention to Ukraine’s significant successes in preventing corruption.
Therefore, in its conclusion, the European Commission recommended appointing the winner of the competition to the position of head of the SAP and holding an open competition for the position of NABU director. As well as strengthening the fight against corruption through effective investigation.
Summarizing the above, I would like to note that Ukraine has already made significant progress in the fight against corruption through the adoption of relevant legislation and the creation of anti-corruption institutions. However, much remains to be done.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen , noted during the press conference , “anti-corruption institutions have already been created, now they should start functioning at full capacity.” So Ukraine has only to complete this “homework” in order to take a step forward. Without it, we will stand still for a long time.