1 June 2017, Kyiv
Dear Ivanna [Klympush],
Dear ambassador [Ruben Madsen]
Colleagues from the anti-corruption institutions,
Ladies and Gentleman,
I am particularly pleased to come to Ukraine at a moment when the entry into force of the visa-free regime for Ukraine is only ten days away. This was a major deliverable for the EU and it shows that reforms pay off, in particular in the area of anti-corruption where they were particularly painful.
And, two days ago, the Dutch Parliament gave its final OK to the Association Agreement. That clears the way for the full ratification by the EU.
Anti-corruption reforms in Ukraine are of key importance for the EU and a pressing demand of the Ukrainian society. Corruption is still the major impediment to Ukraine's economic and political development and the EU has a strong interest in having a democratic and prosperous Ukraine as a neighbour and friend.
Ukraine started an ambitious anti-corruption reform and the EU wants to do all it can to make sure these reforms succeed. I came to Ukraine last autumn to announce that the EU decided to commit some €16m to a major new initiative in support of Ukraine's anti-corruption reforms.
Today, therefore, I am happy to officially launch the EU Anti-Corruption Initiative for Ukraine. It is the biggest EU support programme in the area of anti-corruption so far. The Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) has already embarked on the implementation of the programme and we are grateful for a financial contribution from the Kingdom of Denmark. The EU Advisory Mission is embedding one of its international experts with the programme which shows the comprehensive approach we are following here. And with Eka Tsekelashvili we have an excellent head of the Initiative.
Let me briefly outline the three main elements of the new initiative:
1. We want to boost the capacity of the newly created anti-corruption institutions to investigate, prosecute and sanction corruption.
2. We want to strengthen the capacity of the Verkhovna Rada's Anti-corruption committee to scrutinise corruption-related legislation and to monitor reform implementation. At the request of the Rada, we will create an Advisory Board of international experts to assist the Rada with this task.
3. 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. We want to create examples of what we call "integrity cities" where the people of Ukraine can see what difference it makes to live in an environment free of corruption and that yes, it is possible if you really want it.
A wide range of support will be made available – expertise, training, IT supplies, grants for anti-corruption organisations – which can be adapted to the changing needs of the beneficiaries.
The EU is happy to provide assistance but we also expect Ukraine to deliver results. Let me highlight three points in this respect:
Firstly, E-declarations. The recent amendments of the e-declaration law extending the e-declarations to NGOs and non-resident supervisory board members have been a mistake. It is good to hear that the President wants to correct this and we are ready to support him in this.
Secondly, National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (known as NABU): NABU has been one of the success stories in Ukraine's fight against corruption but we are worried that their independence and effective functioning are too often put into question. Currently, we are concerned that the appointment of the 3 NABU auditors is becoming politicised. The remaining two auditors should be appointed swiftly [by President and Rada], in line with the respective law and in a transparent way. NABU should also get finally the power to conduct wiretapping independently.
Thirdly, the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption. This institution needs urgently to start delivering on its mandate. By this, I mean in particular the effective and objective verification of e-declarations and the identification of potential conflicts of interest amongst public officials. Here as well it is good to hear that also Ukrainian politicians are unhappy with the current situation and want to change it.
Finally, we need to see the establishment of special anti-corruption courts. So far progress with anti-corruption cases in court has been slow and it is urgent that the specialised courts get off the ground.
Let me conclude: There is still some way to go on the path of the difficult reform process but I continue to share my confidence amongst my friends and colleagues in the EU that Ukraine remains serious in its determination to conquer corruption across the board – from municipalities and regions across Ukraine to the centre of power in Kyiv, from the civil service to the courts. Be assured that the European Union stands by you in this most serious fight.