Kyiv, 16 September 2016
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Anti-corruption reforms in Ukraine are of key importance for the EU. Corruption is still the major impediment to the country's economic and political development and the EU has a strong interest in a democratic and prosperous Ukraine.
Ukraine has adopted ambitious anti-corruption legislation and the EU has decided to back the actions to be taken by the government to ensure that it is implemented effectively. The EU has committed some €16m to a major new initiative in support of Ukraine's anti-corruption reforms.
We are happy that the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) has agreed to implement this initiative which is why I am here today with the Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Let me briefly outline the three main elements of the new initiative:
We want to boost the capacity of the newly created anti-corruption institutions to investigate, prosecute and sanction corruption. This concerns the National Anti-corruption Bureau, the Specialised Anti-corruption prosecutor and the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption. Future anti-corruption courts could also benefit from the initiative.
We want to strengthen the capacity of the Verkhovna Rada's Anti-corruption committee to scrutinise corruption-related legislation and to monitor reform implementation. We plan to create an Advisory Board of international experts to help the Rada with this task.
And we want to foster the involvement of civil society and the media in anti-corruption initiatives, in particular in the regions. We will support local authorities which back real change and are ready to cooperate with civil society organisations to put in place a full range of anti-corruption measures in the municipalities.
Our overriding concern is to ensure that anti-corruption reforms are not held back by a lack of resources or expertise. Thus a range of support will be made available – expertise, training, IT supplies, grants for anti-corruption organisations – adaptable to the changing needs of the beneficiaries.
I am making a number of points to all my interlocutors here on this visit:
Firstly, reform must be irreversible. We welcomed the launch of the electronic asset declaration system – but would be very concerned by any attempt in the Rada to water it down. Some amendments have been put forward recently that would seriously undermine anti-corruption efforts.
Delays in this area have already left a bad impression. No one should forget that the Member States of the European Union are watching carefully as the final decisions are taken on visa liberalisation.
We attach great importance to the work of the anti-corruption bodies and it is essential that they will be allowed to work in full independence and with the necessary resources…. But also without unnecessary rivalries and the kind of unacceptable confrontations we saw this summer.
Work on the establishment of anti-corruption courts should also start as soon as possible in order to put in place also this important missing element of the overall anti-corruption reform. We call on the Rada to adopt as soon as possible the necessary legislation to create these courts, and ensure their independence including through appropriate selection procedures of their judges. The international community is ready to assist in this process, including by participating in the selection procedure.
Finally, we think that giving to the National Anti-corruption Bureau the right to conduct wiretapping would enhance its independence.
We count on you to make real change here in Ukraine. You are working in an area that is increasingly seen as the litmus test for the country. We want to help you succeed, in what is, clearly, a very major challenge.