Key leg­is­la­tion that Ukraine ex­pects from the new Rada

New par­lia­ment’s slow start re­news skep­ti­cism

Kyiv Post Legal Quarterly - - Contents - By Anas­ta­sia Forina

Aslow start to the new par­lia­ment has made in­dus­try ex­perts skep­ti­cal that laws on ju­di­cial re­form, en­ergy in­de­pen­dence and de­cen­tral­iza­tion will be en­acted quickly.

De­spite a clear pro-west­ern con­sti­tu­tional ma­jor­ity in the Verkhovna Rada, par­lia­ment seemed more con­cerned about the seats on the spe­cial­ist com­mit­tees when it met af­ter the Oct. 26 elec­tions.

Mark­i­jan Ze­lak, manager of the Pol­ish-ukrainian work­ing group on self-gov­ern­ment re­form in Ukraine, says that a key bill on lo­cal gov­ern­ment co-au­thored by Ana­toliy Tkachuk, a for­mer ad­viser to the vice prime min­is­ter of Ukraine, needs to be ad­dressed. It would give more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to lo­cal gov­ern­ment, and al­low for a ref­er­en­dum in which in­di­vid­ual com­mu­ni­ties can ex­press no con­fi­dence in a mayor or city coun­cil.

“In Poland the lo­cal com­mu­nity is a legal body served by the coun­cil and mayor,” Ze­lak said about sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion which works suc­cess­fully in his coun­try.

But for the bill to work in Ukraine, the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion must be amended, Ze­lak said. ”Lo­cal gov­ern­ments take on more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties if the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of cen­tral au­thor­i­ties are cut.”

Per­haps more prob­lem­at­i­cally, com­pre­hen­sive changes to de­cen­tral­ize the bud­get and tax codes are re­quired.

If the par­lia­ment pro­ceeds with those, lo­cal gov­ern­ments might get an ad­di­tional Hr 39 bil­lion ($2.4 bil­lion) to per­form their new func­tions, Hen­nadiy Zubko, deputy prime min­is­ter of Ukraine, said on Dec.8.

How­ever, there are plenty of sim­pler leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tives that can be adopted and will make a real dif­fer­ence with­out com­pre­hen­sive bud­get changes, Sergiy Grebenyuk, at­tor­ney and coun­sel with Egorov Pu­g­in­sky Afanasiev & Part­ners Ukraine law firm, said.

For ex­am­ple, there is a much-needed law to reg­u­late ap­point­ments to the High Coun­cil of Jus­tice, a body that con­trols the qual­ity of judges’ work and the only author­ity that is ca­pa­ble of dis­miss­ing them. The in­sti­tu­tion has been par­a­lyzed for eight months since its mem­bers were dis­missed, leav­ing judges who made un­law­ful rul­ings dur­ing the Euromaidan Revo­lu­tion un­pun­ished, ac­cord­ing to Grebenyuk.

Ukraine is in dire need

of a new ju­di­cial sys­tem, which is key to im­prov­ing the busi­ness cli­mate, fight­ing cor­rup­tion and en­sur­ing hu­man rights. Ukraine re­mains one of the most cor­rupt coun­tries in the world, even af­ter the gov­ern­ment changed hands ear­lier this year.

“De­spite ‘the fa­cade change,’ Ukraine con­tin­ues tread­ing wa­ter. The newly-adopted laws have not yet given the tan­gi­ble re­sults in anti-cor­rup­tion fight­ing,” Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional said in a Dec. 3 state­ment.

More trans­parency is also over­due for Naftogaz, the state en­ergy gi­ant, says Alexander Bur­tovoy, as­so­ci­ated part­ner at An­tika law firm, who ad­vised on sev­eral en­ergy ef­fi­ciency projects. Its deficit is ex­pected to reach Hr 110 bil­lion ($6.8 bil­lion) this year.

More­over, at a time when Ukraine is fac­ing a se­vere short­age of coal, hav­ing lost some 60 coal mines in the war-torn east while re­main­ing de­pen­dent on Rus­sian gas, leg­is­la­tion to mon­i­tor the process of en­ergy con­sump­tion has to be on the agenda of the new par­lia­ment, Bur­tovoy said.

“Ukraine is a unique coun­try,” he said. “There is prob­a­bly no­body who knows how our en­ergy bal­ance is ac­tu­ally formed and how the con­sump­tion of en­ergy is tracked.”

Ukrainian Prime Min­is­ter Arseniy Yat­senyuk presents the gover­ment ac­tion pro­gram to the Verkhovna Rada on Dec. 11 in Kyiv. (Volodymyr Petrov)

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