EU, US, watchdogs condemn expansion of e-declarations
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s signing of a law to require non-governmental organizations to declare assets in the same way as public officials drew outcry from foreign countries and international institutions supporting Ukraine.
International anti-corruption organizations expressed their opposition to the move. Transparency International Chief Jose Ugaz called for the provisions to be “abolished immediately,” saying in a statement: “These amendments are a vindictive retaliation by lawmakers who are angry that they are required to declare their wealth. There is no justification for singling out anti-corruption groups.”
Freedom House, a Washington-based NGO that promotes democracy globally, claimed that the change violated standards set by the Council of Europe which prevent “discriminatory intrusion” into civil society.
Ambassadors from the G7 nations in Ukraine issued a statement this week condemning the law’s adoption after meeting with Poroshenko on March 28.
The statement, phrased in diplomatic language, summarized the meeting. The ambassadors mentioned that they “specifically” raised issues relating to the “fight against corruption, particularly such as the extension of electronic asset declarations to representatives of civil society.” A number of embassies issued separate statements. A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said the law creates “the impression that in spite of official anti-corruption policy, measures are being taken against those place the fight against corruption as their aim.”
The U. S. Embassy in Ukraine issued a statement on Twitter calling e-declarations for senior public officials “a strong step forward for reform in Ukraine,” while decrying as a “step backwards” the targeting of members of civil society who “play a vital role for transparency.”
Ukrainian media reports said that the U. S. Agency for International Development, the U. S. government’s foreign civilian assistance arm, decided to suspend cooperation with the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption over the law. NAPC is tasked with administering and enforcing the country’s income and asset declarations.
The reports relied on a Facebook post by Deputy Justice Minister Ruslan Ryaboshapka, who said that the new law was “in action” and that U.S. AID had suspended cooperation.
The next day, NAPC Chief Natalya Korchak denied Ryaboshapka’s claim, saying that cooperation was continuing and that further projects were being discussed.
USAID and NAPC have one ongoing project involving the financing of political parties, according to the U. S. Embassy. A spokesman declined to say whether the embassy had cancelled its cooperation with NAPC. “We constantly review our assistance and how best to achieve shared goals,” the spokesman said.
Activists on March 28 protest pressure by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) on YouControl, a company that monitors business data and corruption. (Anastasia Vlasova) BY JOSH KOVENSKY