Today, the European Court of Auditors issued a report on its performance audit of EU support to the fight against “grand corruption” in Ukraine, covering the period 2016 to 2019.
The Commission welcomes the report and will implement its recommendations.
In particular, the Commission welcomes the Court’s finding that a significant number of EU support actions in Ukraine’s fight against corruption assisted in moving the reform process forward.
As regards building up anti-corruption institutions, the Court opines that less attention should have been given to this. The Commission maintains that in line with international best practice, supporting these institutions was instrumental in bringing the lacking institutional infrastructure to Ukraine - an indispensable prerequisite to tackling corruption successfully. As a result, the anti-corruption architecture in Ukraine is now complete. It has started bringing tangible results, such as prison sentences for corrupt officials. The EU has also supported the introduction of an unprecedented and transparent electronic asset declarations system, requiring officials and politicians to disclose information about their private assets.
The Commission agrees with the Court that more results are needed. Strong vested interests are putting up vehement resistance to reform efforts. This is a clear sign that reform measures start disrupting major corruption schemes. The willingness and commitment of Ukraine’s leadership and legislative bodies to quickly and efficiently implement and sustain reforms will be instrumental in continuing to bring results. An intensified judicial reform is also important. Lately, after the period ending in 2019 that the Court of Auditors assessed, encouraging developments like calling upon the EU and international community to participate in the integrity check and selection process for judicial self-government bodies indicate that Ukraine is willing to speed up the reform process. The anti-corruption bodies created with the support of the EU and the international community are working increasingly well, but keeping them free from political pressure and influence remains a challenge. More results can be expected soon as these institutions are now fully operational and complex investigations start to bear fruit. As an example, since its recent creation, the High Anti-Corruption Court has considered 147 cases, which means that high-level corruption is not only increasingly being uncovered, but also that those responsible are being brought to justice.
The Commission embraces the Court’s recommendation to further intensify its support to both Ukraine’s vibrant civil society and investigative journalism. Both have helped to uncover many corrupt schemes in Ukraine. The Court also made a number of useful recommendations that would enhance the efficiency, transparency and availability of information regarding the EU’s support action. The Commission is ready to take them up.
Ukraine’s efforts to rid itself of corruption and to reform its judiciary continue to be in the centre of the intensive political dialogue between the EU and Ukraine. As in the past, the EU’s comprehensive support action in addressing corruption will not only focus on the repressive side, but also on closing the space for corruption. Actions enhancing transparency such as digitisation and the introduction of a modern law on administrative procedure are elements on which work is intensively ongoing. The EU will continue to stand behind Ukraine in its efforts to intensify the fight against corruption.
The EU and Ukraine have very close bilateral relations, based on the EU–Ukraine Association Agreement/Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, which is the most ambitious and comprehensive Agreement that the EU has with any country. The AA/DCFTA is the main framework for bringing Ukraine and the EU closer together. It is open-ended and sets out a long-term and comprehensive reform programme prioritising democracy and the rule of law, strengthening institutions, economic growth, social cohesion and respect for human rights. The AA is also a roadmap allowing Ukraine to implement a wide range of reforms including in specific sectors, as well as wider governance reforms (i.e. public administration reform, decentralisation, anti-corruption) with the EU’s support.
Ever since the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-2014, Ukraine has undertaken wide-ranging and ambitious reforms that have aimed, as a priority, at addressing corruption. In some areas, EU-supported anti-corruption reforms have been very successful, notably through closing the space for corruption to occur by introducing competition and transparency in a number of sectors This is for example the case in the gas and banking sectors, exchange rates, health, competition policy and public procurement. New legislation on asset declarations and anti-money laundering limited benefiting from the proceeds of illicit activity, including corruption. In other areas, efforts have not yet been fully successful. Corruption, especially high-level corruption, still remains an issue that prevents Ukraine from realising its full economic potential.
The EU, in its support actions, addresses corruption and high-level corruption by multi-faceted, comprehensive action. This reflects best international practice that does not treat high-level (“grand”) corruption as an isolated phenomenon. The EU’s approach aims at closing the space for corruption. It also initially focused on building the institutional architecture that is crucially needed in the fight against corruption. The Commission embraces the Court’s recommendation to better describe and formulate how the EU’s comprehensive action targets high-level corruption.
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- 23 September 2021