On January 25, in Strasbourg, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution following the results of monitoring the reforms and the state of democracy in Ukraine. The PACE convention was full of tension for Ukraine. Some of the main points of the resolution titled "The functioning of democratic institutions in Ukraine" caused heated debate and confrontation.
The most awkward point: elections in Donbas
The amendment about the elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in the territories that are beyond the control of Kyiv appeared to be the most perilous and unexpected in the resolution. A pro-Russian deputy from Germany, Andrey Gunko suggested that this item be included in the resolution. A Spanish rapporteur on Ukraine, Jordi Shukla proposed to approve it in order to “solve the problem of non-representation of separate territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the Verkhovna Rada as soon as possible." The majority of the PACE Monitoring Committee supported this provision, despite the protests of the Ukrainian delegation. However, during a consideration of the amendments, Ukraine and several pro-Ukrainian deputies used the PACE rules to avoid putting this amendment to a vote. The amendment, which has only “verbal” status can be removed from consideration if at least 10 deputies are against it. This was the only way to avoid putting Ukraine at a disadvantage.
According to the representative of the International Centre for Policy Studies, Yevgeniy Yaroshenko, this vote in PACE has shown that 2017 is going to be unpleasant for Ukraine. According to the expert, the ties between Europe and the USA will weaken and the voices of those who are in favor of normalization of relations between Europe and Russia will become stronger.
"There is a high probability that such a normalization will be promoted at the expense of the interests of Ukraine,” Yaroshenko said.
Undisguised criticism: corruption and lustration
PACE believes that in Ukraine there has been no progress in combating corruption. The law on lustration also provoked several questions. The Assembly called on the Verkhovna Rada to introduce amendments into the law, which were prepared in cooperation with the Venice Commission so that the document would not violate human rights.
Rights of the opposition and the equality of languages
The Assembly has urged Ukrainian authorities to respect the rights of the opposition, to enable it to perform its functions in full and also to ensure political pluralism in the country. This amendment was made in the resolution at the behest of the Opposition Bloc, which consists mainly of Ex-president Yanukovych’s Party of Regions members.
The Monitoring Committee also expressed concerns about the rights of national minorities in Ukraine vis-à-vis the "language" bills that have been treated ambiguously even by Ukrainians themselves. Hungarian Zoltan Nemeth introduced an amendment into the resolution saying that Ukraine "should preserve the rights of national minorities to use their own languages, which are provided by the Constitution, and preserve all of the country's international commitments." The resolution also has a requirement to take into account the ethnic composition and specificity of the historically formed regions while carrying out the decentralization.
Euromaidan and Minsk
The PACE resolution urges Ukraine to investigate crimes committed against the Euromaidan activists in 2013 and 2014 and, as a separate clause, to conduct a full investigation into the events of May 2014 in Odessa where 48 people were killed in a fire in the House of Trade Unions. PACE also insists on the implementation of the Minsk agreements, particularly those concerning the amendments to the Constitution regarding decentralization. At the same time, the Assembly emphasizes that the implementation of the Minsk agreements must not slow down the country’s reforms and democratic consolidation.