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EU's Mogherini Says Ukraine Must Do More Against Corruption

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on March 12 in Kyiv.

The European Union's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has pressed Ukraine to do more to fight corruption and establish an anticorruption court that is in accordance with recommendations of independent experts.

The EU and the Ukrainian citizens “expect and want to see more consolidated progress in the fight against corruption,” Mogherini said on March 12 at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman in Kyiv.

Ukraine's parliament on March 1 approved the first reading of legislation creating an anticorruption court that has been demanded by protest groups and international institutions that provide Ukraine with financial support.

After the vote, President Petro Poroshenko said a final reading of the law “should be definitively approved in the spring.”

However, some reformers within Ukraine and allies in Europe have said the legislation does not meet standards set by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, a group of independent experts in constitutional law, and the requirements of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In January, the IMF said that "several provisions [of the bill] are not consistent with the commitments of the authorities."

"In its current form…we would not be able to support the draft law," the IMF added.

Critics have charged that the current legislation does not ensure the selection of independent anticorruption judges.

Mogherini said in Kyiv said that Ukraine’s anticorruption institutions “must be allowed to do their work independently, with enough powers and resources to investigate, prosecute, and eventually ensure the conviction of those responsible for corruption.”

She insisted that establishing “an independent anticorruption court, fully in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission, would also help the business environment and the investment climate.”

Poroshenko said after his talks with Mogherini that the anticorruption court law will comply with the standards of the Venice Commission and would not violate Ukraine's constitution.

The IMF has called the establishment of an anticorruption court a "benchmark" of Ukraine's progress toward Western legal standards, and has said it would help ease the release of its loans in the future.

On March 9, the European Commission said it had adopted a proposal for a new Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) program worth up to 1 billion euros ($1.23 billion) to support Ukraine's economic stabilization and structural reforms.

But a statement said all disbursements under the proposed program would be conditional on the implementation of reforms, including steps to intensify the fight against corruption.

The proposal still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and European Council.

Since 2014, the bloc has pledged 12.8 billion euros to support the reform process in Ukraine, including 2.8 billion euros through three previous MFA programs.

Kyiv failed to meet all the conditions for the disbursement of a final tranche of loans under the previous aid program, which expired in January.

Ukraine in 2017 was ranked 130th out of 180 countries rated by Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index.