20 March 2017 18:10

FINAL STATEMENT AND RECOMMENDATIONS pursuant to Article 467(3) of the Association Agreement

The fifth meeting of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee (PAC) was held in Strasbourg on 15 and 16 March 2017, and was co-chaired by Mykola Kniazhytskyi on behalf of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and Dariusz Rosati on behalf of the European Parliament.


The Parliamentary Association Committee, having considered the state of play of EU-Ukraine relations, the implementation of the Association Agreement and the overall security and political situation in Ukraine, agreed upon the following final statement and recommendations.


The Parliamentary Association Committee (PAC):


On the overall security and humanitarian situation


1. Reiterates its strong support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders; recalls its strong condemnation of Russia’s aggressive and expansionist policy that has resulted in the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol and the occupation of some regions of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, in breach of international law and agreements; reiterates its joint determination to achieve the peaceful reintegration of these territories; underlines the serious implications of this conflict for overall security in Europe;


2. Expresses its deep concern at the further security deterioration and recent escalation of fighting in the area of Avdiivka, and the terrible consequences for the population, including the deaths of innocent civilians; calls on the Russian Federation and its proxies to respect the ceasefire arrangement of 18 February 2017 and to swiftly and fully implement the Minsk agreements; urges Russia to withdraw its troops and weaponry from the territory of Ukraine and immediately stop providing financial and military support to the illegal armed formations of the proxies that it backs; calls for the restoration of full control of the Ukrainian government over its borders; firmly condemns the executive order signed by Russian President recognising travel documents issued by the Russian proxies, which contradicts the efforts made in the framework of the Minsk process;


3. Strongly condemns the so-called “external management” of Ukrainian enterprises, as well as the formal introduction of the rouble, in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions; calls for the full respect of property rights in these regions;


4. Calls on the EU to play a more active and effective role regarding conflict resolution and peace-building and to increase its presence in Ukraine; calls on the Member States to increase assistance to Ukraine, including adequate defensive systems and security sector reform, notably within the framework of the European Union Advisory Mission for Civilian Security Sector Reform Ukraine (EUAM Ukraine) in order to deter Russian military aggression in Eastern Ukraine;

5. Expresses its deep concern that, despite encouraging releases in spring 2016, the number of Ukrainian citizens in the temporarily occupied territories, who have been illegally arrested, sentenced and imprisoned by the Russian authorities, has been  increasing, and therefore need urgent advocacy, legal and financial support; calls for their immediate release; encourages the exchange of prisoners; 


6. Welcomes the fact that the EU’s policy of non-recognition has remained firm and unchanged since the illegal annexation of Crimea and of the City of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation; calls on all EU political actors to refrain from engaging in any initiatives undermining the policy of non-recognition; notes with utmost concern the deteriorating human rights situation in Crimea; deplores the ban of Mejlis, as well as the persistent persecution of the Crimean Tatars and other groups of society which protest against the illegal annexation of Crimea; welcomes the visit of the Ombudsman of Ukraine to prisons in Crimea; reminds that Russia as an occupying country has an obligation to ensure the protection of the human rights in Crimea; therefore, calls on Russia to grant unimpeded access to the international community and Ukrainian authorities which would monitor human rights situation; expresses deep concerns with the continuous large-scale militarisation of the occupied Crimea by Russia, which threatens regional and all-European security;


7. Requests to explore a possibility to establish an international format of negotiations aiming at putting an end to the occupation of Crimea  with the participation of the EU and which would be based on the international humanitarian law, human rights and international principles;


8. Welcomes the recent prolongation of the EU’s restrictive measures against the Russian Federation, prolonged on 13 March 2017 until September 2017, targeting individuals and entities subject to an asset freeze and a travel ban; stresses that sanctions were needed as a reaction to, and a means of deterring, further Russian aggression in Ukraine; emphasizes that the various types of restrictive measures should remain in force respectively until the full implementation of the Minsk agreements and the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine within internationally recognised borders; calls on the EU to consider the imposition of further sanctions in response to further gross violations of international law and of the human rights in Crimea by the Russia Federation; condemns the arbitrary measure of banning EU politicians and officials from access to Russian territory, while highlighting that the EU sanctions are based on the rule of law; 

9. Underlines the importance of awareness raising, education, online media and information literacy in the EU and in Ukraine with a view to empowering citizens to critically analyse media content in order to identify propaganda; stresses in this sense the importance of strengthening knowledge on all levels of the educational system; points out the need for encouraging people to active citizenship and for developing their awareness as media consumers; underlines the central role of online tools, especially social media where the spread of false information is noticeable;

10. Reminds that Ukraine has almost 1,8 million Internally displaced persons; commends the work and efficiency of the Ministry for IDPs and Temporarily Occupied Territories and reiterates its call to grant this ministry with the appropriate political support and financial and human resources, if necessary with EU assistance; welcomes the recent adoption by the Government of Ukraine of the Action Plan for the certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions; stresses that this Action Plan represents an important step towards a much-needed inclusive approach to Ukrainian citizens living in the territory currently outside the government's control; reminds that all Ukrainian citizens have a constitutional right to receive social services and pensions, including those living in the territory currently outside the government’s control; emphasizes in particular the importance to ensure access to food and shelter, education, and health care including psychiatric care, for children IDPs;


11. Expresses its deep concern at the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation and denounces the constraints placed on the work of humanitarian organisations in the non-government controlled areas; calls on Russian backed separatists to ensure full, safe and unhindered access to separatist held areas for all humanitarian actors, as well as the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission; calls on the High Representative and the Commission to call for the respect of humanitarian law and access of humanitarian aid in the separatist held areas of Donbass; welcomes the additional funding of 18 million by the European Union for people affected by the conflict as well as the special measure planned to support early recovery in the East;


On EU-Ukraine relations


12. Took note of the adoption of the law on ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement by the House of Representatives of the Netherlands on 23 February 2017 and looks forward to its speedy adoption by the Dutch Senate as well as completion of all necessary procedures in the EU with a view to the soonest possible full entry into force of the Agreement;


13. Furthermore warmly welcomes the agreement reached between the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission on 28 February 2017 on the granting of a visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens, which has been advocated since years by the European Parliament; insists that the procedural steps which remain until the lifting of visa requirements for short stays in the EU should be completed as soon as possible; notes in this connection that visa liberalisation is only one of a number of processes aimed at bringing the societies closer together, and that more efforts are required in this area, particularly with regard to advancing cooperation in the fields of education, science, culture and sport; highlights that the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies, pupil exchange, remunerated and unremunerated training, voluntary service and au pairing is a tool which will have a great impact in the field of education and culture;


14. Welcomes Ukraine’s substantial efforts and achievements in implementation of the Association Agreement and the Association Agenda and expects reforms to be continued with more speed and determination, in order to fully consolidate them; expects the executive and legislative branches to continue their joint efforts to implement the ambitious reform agenda and to communicate the outcome of these efforts to the citizens; 


15. Recalls the resolution adopted by the Verkhovna Rada on 17 March 2016, unanimously endorsing all recommendations stemming from the EP Needs Assessment Mission conducted by former EP president Pat Cox, and calling for their implementation; welcomes the steps already taken in this respect; commends the commitment and the dedication of the Verkhovna Rada and of the faction leaders aimed at joint work for the reform of the Rada, and invites them to build on the achievements;

16. Reiterates its call to the EU executive and the Ukrainian authorities to deliver a clear overview of the state of play of implementation of the AA; underlines the need to strengthen the internal organisation of the Verkhovna Rada in order to facilitate and rationalise the harmonisation of Ukrainian law with EU law in line with the commitments taken under the Association Agreement, and welcomes the ongoing work undertaken in this respect;


17. Stresses that the Association Agreement does not constitute the final goal in EU‑Ukraine relations; points out, furthermore, that Ukraine has a European perspective pursuant to Article 49 TEU, and may apply to become a member of the European Union provided it adheres to the Copenhagen criteria and the principles of democracy, respects fundamental freedoms and human and minority rights, and ensures the rule of law;


18. Recognises the importance of helping out Ukraine to boost its economic growth with Autonomous Trade Measures especially by the export diversification, strengthening the role of SMEs and at the same time protecting the EU producers in agricultural and industrial sectors; stresses that such additional support is particularly necessary against the background of the Russian Federation's ongoing  economic aggression against Ukraine's exports and transit trade;  in this context, welcomes the European Commission’s legislative proposal for additional autonomous trade measures for Ukraine;


19. Took note of the Special Report of the EU Court of Auditors on EU Assistance to Ukraine; reminds of the fact that the European Commission has put in place an unprecedented structure, the Support Group for Ukraine, to assist Ukraine in its reform process; welcomes the resuming of a multi-annual programming for Ukraine for the years 2018-2020; welcomes the imminent disbursement of the second tranche of the Macro-Financial Assistance; stresses that, while it is important to continue focusing a large part of EU support on institutional consolidation, it is also crucial to dedicate parts of the EU assistance to concrete projects which have direct and swift tangible benefits for the population and where the visibility of EU support is high;


On the reform process


20. Acknowledges the efforts made by the Ukrainian authorities to implement a comprehensive reform agenda aimed at building an efficient market economy and a strong democracy with a robust civil component; underlines that progress has been uneven and that a lot of work still remains to be done; recalls that Ukraine now has a chance to overcome corruption that has been a major hurdle in the socio-economic development of the country since its independence and to build a prosperous future based on the rule of law;


21. Reiterates the crucial importance of the decentralisation process and encourages all relevant laws to be swiftly adopted;


22. Commends the advances made in the anti-corruption reforms in Ukraine and in particular the unprecedented step represented by the e-declaration of assets; calls for a speedy follow-up to the publication of the e-declarations; expresses appreciation for the work carried out by the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), and reminds the Ukrainian authorities to ensure honest and transparent audit of NABU without political pressure from any side; underlines in that context the importance of achieving the sentencing of corrupt officials, bearing in mind the very high citizens’ expectations in this respect; believes that the establishment of specialised Anti-Corruption Courts is necessary, with  new rules of court procedure for appointment of judges, transparent and independent from political influence, scrutinised by international partners engaged in technical assistance in anti-corruption sector in Ukraine, as well as by representatives of Ukrainian civil society, to allow for fair and impartial judicial decisions;

23. Emphasises the crucial role of the judicial sector in the fight against corruption; welcomes, in this light, the steps already undertaken to carry out the justice sector reform in line with constitutional amendments and the framework law "On judiciary and status of the judges" adopted in June 2016; underlines the importance of transparency and impartiality of competition to the new Supreme Court; welcomes the unique procedure of  competition to the new Supreme Court providing the participation of judges as well as attorneys and scientists in the competition;  welcomes activity of the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine on providing public access to the competition and professional frameworks of assessment of candidates;  encourages the  active participation of the Public Integrity Council and other NGO’s in monitoring of each stage of competition to the Supreme Court; emphasizes the need to move swiftly ahead with the adoption of complementary laws, such as the law on constitutional court and on Bar as well as adoption of new rules for court procedures;


24. Notes that in order to ensure the efficient working of the judicial system, particular attention should be paid to continuing the reform of the Office of the Prosecutor General as well as the higher and lower courts; highlight furthermore the importance of improving the enforcement of judgements;


25. Commends the successful macro-economic stabilisation and the steps taken to reduce public expenditure; considers that outstanding progress has been made in the area of public procurement with the introduction of the electronic procurement system ProZorro since August 2016, as well as in the cleaning up of the banking sector; underlines the importance of a transparent privatisation process, of an improved public financing management and of a lifting of the moratorium on land sales; welcomes legislative amendments concerning publication of all decisions of the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine; encourages adoption of a law on improvement of hearing procedure provided by the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine; emphasizes the need of property execution of the new law on the state aid, which will come into force this year; encourages development of economic competition and attraction of investments by protection of intellectual property rights, in particular, considering the EU experience, by setting clear rules   for the exhaustion regime concerning trademarks to protect national and foreign right holders against illegal use of the trademarks and violation of other intellectual property rights;


26. Calls on the Ukrainian authorities to fulfil their commitments taken under the DCFTA by eliminating all trade irritants with the EU; welcomes therefore the law tabled in the Verkhovna Rada on 6 February 2017 which aims to eliminate the ban on timber exports and looks forward to its rapid adoption; welcome the development of a forest strategy aimed at further reforming forest management;

27. Underlines that Ukraine has the potential to attract more foreign investment, with international rankings pointing to legal and judicial unpredictability and an inadequate institutional framework as the main problems for the business and investment climate;

28. Recalls that important steps have been taken by the Ukrainian government to stabilise and simplify the regulatory framework of the economy, while preparations were made for the privatisation of many of Ukraine's state-owned enterprises; regrets, however, the lack of progress in that matter;

29. Reiterates the crucial importance to drastically improve the business climate also for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Ukraine;

30. Welcomes the agreement reached between the European Union and Ukraine on its joint development of Digital Single Market, which strengthen trade cooperation between the Parties mentioned; facilitates the development of SME, particularly in the area of innovations, technical solutions and capacity building; maximising the growth potential of the Digital Economy by extending citizens benefits from digital services (eGovernment, eHealth, eEnergy, eTransport, etc) available;

31. Reiterates its particular interest in seeing the Public Administration Reform (PAR) fully implemented and underlines therefore the importance of implementing the Public Administration Reform Strategy for 2016-2020; welcomes the adoption of the Law “On Service in Local Self-Government Bodies” and looks forward to its implementation; calls for the adoption of the amendments to the Law "On Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine" and to the Law "On Central Executive Bodies", which  have to provide the implementation of the civil service reform, therefore leading to formation the new public administration in Ukraine; underlines the importance of continuing the process of proposed legislation, as the Law on Civil Service requires appropriate amendments, corresponding to the current requirements of Ukrainian legislation on the one hand, and the support in time of the implementation of the Public Administration Reform according to the tasks and procedures, as defined in the joint Agenda on PAR implementation, developed by the EC and Ukraine on the other;


32. Welcomes the formation of Reform Support Teams (RSTs), formed of reform-driven professionals from outside the Ukrainian civil service, from private sector and/or educated abroad, aimed at upgrading the competences and working conditions in the civil service as well as enhancing the efficiency and transparency of the public administration; underlines the need for a clear and transparent recruitment process in the implementation of Public Administration Reform; stresses the importance of an adequate remuneration of civil servants in order to prevent unofficial system of reward;


33. Welcomes the signing of the new Memorandum of Understanding on Strategic Energy Partnership between Ukraine and the EU, which will cement the solidarity and boost Ukraine - EU cooperation in all energy sectors, including energy efficiency and renewable energy;


34. Stresses the importance of completing the reforms in the energy sector, since these are essential for creating a competitive Ukrainian market and attracting reliable investors, including the adoption of the laws on the electricity market and on energy efficiency, the adoption of the new energy strategy and efforts to diversify the domestic energy supplies, in particular from the coal and gas sector, as well as the implementation of the Naftogaz unbundling plan;


35. Expresses concern over the intentions to build transit gas pipelines bypassing Ukraine, and considers that the implementation of such projects runs counter to the EU energy security strategy, jeopardizes energy security of the EU and Ukraine and is an evidence that energy is used as a means of pressure; stresses the importance of ensuring long-term energy supplies to and through Ukraine, which is linked to the provision of European energy security;


36. Regrets the decision of the European Commission regarding the increase of capacity available to Gazprom in OPAL pipeline in Germany, which may lead to an increase of the dependence of a number of EU Member States from the Russian monopoly supplier as well as decrease of gas transit volume through Ukraine; is of the opinion that such a decision will also facilitate Russia’s plans to destroy Ukraine’s gas transmission system as a competitor in the delivery of gas to the EU consumers;

37. Calls on the European Union to sign the Agreement On Common Aviation Area between Ukraine and the EU as soon as possible;


38. Underlines the importance of the implementation of the national human rights strategy for 2016-2020 and the action plan; calls for further progress in the investigations into the crimes committed during the EuroMaidan protests and the violence in Odessa of 2 May 2014, in order to bring to justice those responsible without delay; recognises the benefits of the Istanbul Convention and hopes for a speedy ratification by Ukraine; points out that Ukraine is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and underlines the importance of adopting relevant legislation; calls for the full respect of freedom of expression and of information; underlines the importance to further respect the rights and specific interests of persons belonging to national and ethnic minorities;


39. Reiterates its call to the Ukrainian authorities to take a decisive step to reform and unify the electoral code and adopt a law on parliamentary elections, in line with the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations; regrets that the members of the Central Election Commission whose mandate expired have not yet been replaced; given the strategic importance of these issues for the proper functioning of a democratic Ukraine, calls on all political forces to find a consensus on these matters and to discuss them in an open and inclusive process;


40. Urges the EU to find ways to support Ukraine at the International Court of Justice in the case to hold the Russian Federation accountable for its support for terrorism in the East of Ukraine and acts of discrimination of ethnic Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars in occupied Crimea;


Next meeting


41. Intends to hold the next meeting of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee in September 2017, on the premises of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.



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