Moldova and Ukraine need to do more in the fight against corruption, the EU Commissioner on Neighbourhood policy Johannes Hanh said.
Speaking at a conference organised by the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels, Hanh underlined the implementation of already adopted anti-corruption measures is not convincing in the two associated countries.
In recent times, there have been important advances in terms of setting up of dedicated agencies or the adoption of specialised laws and strategies, as we have seen in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. However, Moldova and Ukraine need to do more. I can’t stress enough the importance of effective implementation and enforcement of those reforms to see tangible results”, the EU commissioner said.
Hanh called for political leadership and for concrete results in combating corruption and justice reforms.
Judicial improvements and anti-corruption will be decisive for the EU engagement in the association countries, he added.
The EU would like the next Eastern Partnership Summit to examine the progress made and the challenges ahead in publishing and following up on the asset and conflict of interests of politicians and civil servants as well as of developments in the establishment of high-level anti-corruption institutions and offices for the recovery and management of assets.
Georgia – the best performer
The EU commissioner prized the “commitment and the courage” of Georgian government in implementing reforms, saying the country moves ahead in improving judiciary, the fight against corruption and anti-discrimination issues.
Georgia’s efforts would allow the country to benefit from additional financing of about 100 million EUR from the ‘Umbrella Programme’ for 2012 – 2016, Hang pledged.
However, Tbilisi still needs to show progress in media pluralism and improving access of the civil society to the decision-making process.
Moldova – independence of judiciary is vital
Political interference in the judiciary, police and the economic regulators is the major problem for Moldova, together with the lack of professional and independent system for recruiting judges and prosecutors.
While welcoming the laws trimming the number of courts and the establishment of the new prosecutor body, commissioner Hanh, said the rule of law, selective prosecution and court hearings behind close doors, conflict of interest and increasing pressure on media, are still creating serious concerns.
Ukraine – political will is required
Constitutional amendments in Ukraine as well as the new legislation on the judiciary improve the functioning of justice including prosecution, the EU commissioner said. But the implementation is still to be enforced. The lack of convictions in anti-corruption cases on high political level is disappointing the Ukrainian public.
EU will monitor closely the launch of the electronic asset declarations system for public officials on 1 April. The publication of over 100 000 detailed declarations is unprecedented in its scope and ambition, but systemic verification and investigations for those misleading the public should follow shortly.
An EU official said earlier the new visa suspension mechanism has a provision allowing EU to withhold the free travel in case of backslide on visa liberalisation benchmarks, of which independent judiciary and fight against corruption are part.
The experts – more critical
The overall optimistic stand of Johannes Hanh on Georgia conflicted with the reports of the experts participating in the conference. Ana Natsvlishvili from the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association said reforms are limited and slow and the political will is missing in her country as well, especially regarding reducing high level corruption.
“The Georgian justice system struggles with two key issues: It finds it difficult to resist political pressure, especially in some “sensitive cases” and it fails to be the main guarantor of human rights and the rule of law”, Natsvlishvili pointed out, speaking during the conference panel dedicated to justice reform.
Saying the bribery in the public services disappeared in Georgia, another Georgian expert – Erekle Urushadze from Transparency International, agreed the high-level corruption still needs to be detected and eliminated by the authorities. The missing independent investigative body to fight corruption among the ruling elite harms the efforts to effective tackle the problem, he explained.
The lack of results in fight against corruption in Moldova is not only affecting the trust in the public authorities but also is leading to decline of the support for the European integration, Elena Prohnitchi from the Association for Participatory Democracy warned. She said issues like vague rules on political party financing and the party control of the media are pushing back ordinary people. Corruption is among top five concerns of Moldavians but 75% of cases investigated are dealing only with petty corruption, Prohnitchi said.
The disappointment and disillusionment with the effectiveness of the fight against corruption is a growing problem for Ukrainian society too, Transparency International Andrii Marusov told the members of Euronest. He warned the resistance to the anticorruption efforts is growing and the EU should consider how to condition its financial assistance to the reforms in order to secure the political establishment and public engagement.
Johannes Hanh’s speech at Euronest conference – text
Johannes Hanh’ speech – video
Agenda and participants of the conference
What is Euronest Parliamentary Assembly
Video recording of the Euronest conference
EU – Ukraine Association Agreement
EU-Moldova Association Agreement
EU-Georgia Association Agreement