European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule has named six key areas in which Ukraine can take steps towards European integration.
"There are a number of concrete steps that Ukraine can take to make the road ahead as smooth as possible, and to demonstrate that it is laying the foundations for political association. I would like to highlight the need for action in six key areas which I consider to be particularly important," he said in his speech in Brussels on Monday as part of a policy dialog, entitled "EU-Ukraine Relations: The Road Ahead."
Fule said that the first step was to recognize the failings of the justice system in a number of cases, in particular, criminal cases opened against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko.
"Today's [Feb. 27] verdict on Yuriy Lutsenko is further evidence that this is a systemic problem encompassing all aspects of judicial process," he said.
Fule recalled that these trials and detentions "have elicited criticism from independent experts around the world."
"Wide judicial reform based on expert advice, and carried out openly and with appropriate consultation, would show that the rule of law lies at the center of Ukraine's agenda for change and is not applied on a selective basis," the commissioner said.
Fule said that as part of this, the Ukrainian authorities should also "make public the preliminary observations of the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture from their recent visit to Ukraine."
"This visit included an assessment of the health care being provided to a number of those currently in detention, including Mrs Tymoshenko, Mr Lutsenko and Mr [former Acting Defense Minister Valeriy] Ivaschenko," he said.
"The second step would be to follow this up with progress on other reforms related to the rule of law. These include laws on freedom of assembly and NGOs, and amendments to the laws on the judicial system and the status of judges. These should be brought into line with the recommendations made by the Council of Europe," Fule said.
He said that the third step would be to prepare the parliamentary elections so that all political forces are confident that "democracy is observed in spirit as well as in law."
The commissioner also said that outstanding recommendations from the Venice Commission on the legal framework should be clearly followed.
"Observers from bodies such as OSCE-ODIHR should be invited to monitor the elections. And fair access to the media and freedom of assembly should be guaranteed," he said.
He said that the fourth step was to drive forward constitutional reform in close consultation with the Venice Commission.
"The establishment of a single independent body dedicated to this issue would be an important step, and would help to guarantee that the process was undertaken in an open and participatory way. The opposition must also play a constructive role in supporting change. All Ukrainians have a stake in this process and it is vital to get it right," he said.
He said that the fifth step was for Ukraine to take the necessary steps to unblock two significant financial resources.
"First, if the Civil Service Law is not amended to bring it in line with EU and international standards, Ukraine could lose EUR 70 million of 2011 funds. These funds are intended to support Ukraine's public administrative reform, which we consider so important. Second, two general conditions for budgetary support on progress in public finance management reforms and macroeconomic stability remain under review," Fule said.
"Until these conditions are met, the 2011 and 2012 budget support disbursement requests by the Government, amounting to EUR 167 million, must remain on hold. Therefore, it would be a significant step forward if Ukraine can adopt a comprehensive reform strategy on public finance management in agreement with the EU and start to deliver on it," he said.
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