EU Commission President Juncker drops demand that Ukraine establish anti-corruption court

nsnbc : During the EU-Ukraine Summit in Kyiv on July 13, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who led the EU side with European Council President Donald Tusk, claimed that President Petro Poroshenko persuaded him that there is no need for establishing an independent anti-corruption court in Ukraine.

Jean-Claude Juncker_EU Commission_Kiev_Ukraine_Jul 2017Juncker, no stanger to controversy, accepted Poroshenko’s recommendation for a less-than-independent “anti-corruption panel” within the Supreme Court. In May 2017 Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko said that there was no need to create “another court”.

Instead, a panel within the Supreme Court, which is widely distrusted and politically subservient to the administration, would according to Lutsenko, be enough. It’s worth noting that the controversy about an anti-corruption court comes ahead of next year’s elections and a cohort of corruption scandals involving close associates of Poroshenko.

EU Commission President Juncker said: “We previously insisted on the establishment of a new special anti-corruption court in Ukraine, but President Petro Poroshenko persuaded us that … it would be better to create the special anti-corruption panel of judges, who would convict high-profile corrupt officials in Ukraine.”

Ukrainian civic and grassroots activists as well as opposition members have long called for the creation of an independent anti-corruption court in the country. The court, demand activists, should be staffed with independent and competent judges, and recruited with the help of foreigners, to try graft cases. This is seen as a solution to the problem of Ukraine’s notoriously corrupt and politicized judiciary.

However, Poroshenko and allies’ unwillingness to establish such a court and the European Commission’s concessions may be understood when one recalls that the so-called Euro-Maidan revolution in 2014 substituted one, European-Eurasian-oriented oligarchical clan with another, EU-NATO oriented one, with the sustained support from the European Union.

Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Action Center and the Reanimation Package of Reforms says the anti-corruption panel will be as ineffective as Ukraine’s current courts, as it will not be independent. Moreover, reformist lawmaker Sergii Leshchenko said the issue is not Juncker’s, or the EU’s, to decide. Leshenko told reporters that he guesses that Juncker is not familiar enough with the topic and that “The anti-corruption chamber reminds me of the three years of so-called attempts to make cosmetic reforms to the General Prosecutor’s Office. This is our fight. And we know better what we need, a new anti-corruption court. And we will continue to push for it.”

Setting up the anti-corruption court was one of the main conditions set by the International Monetary Fund  (IMF) and European Union to grant Ukraine further loans. In its latest memorandum, the IMF, which has already disbursed $13.6 billion out of a $17.5 billion bailout for Ukraine, set a strict June 14 deadline for the anti-corruption court bill to be approved by Ukraine’s parliament.

A bill on the establishment of the anti-corruption court was tabled by lawmakers in parliament in February. However, President Poroshenko and Verkhovna Rada (parliament) speaker Andriy Parubiy ignored the bill. The deadline was missed, and Juncker is apparently satisfied with “the next best thing.”

F/AK – nsnbc 14.07.2017

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