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21 March, 2012  ▪  Alla Lazareva

GRECO President: “Kivalov Twisted My Words Significantly in His Statements”

If you can't win over an opponent, try to distort what he says. Apparently, Party of Regions member Serhiy Kivalov has been following that motto as he tells Ukrainians in his numerous interviews that the president of GRECO, Marin Mrčela, the Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption, allegedly opposes the decriminalization of Articles 364 and 365 of the Criminal Code under which Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko were sentenced.

U.W.: Member of the Ukrainian Delegation to PACE Mr. Serhiy Kivalov made a statement disclosing information from a closed meeting of the Assembly's Legal Affairs Committee which took place on 12 March. He said that during the meeting you disagreed with the need to decriminalize abuse and exceeding authority under Articles 364 and 365 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code. Is that true? Or do you agree with the PACE recommendation in its recent resolution on Ukraine that these articles should be amended in line with Council of Europe standards?

The claims made by Mr Kivalov according to the Ukrainian press are a gross misrepresentation of what I actually said.

Namely, while addressing the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 11 March 2012, I referred to the GRECO evaluation reports which reveal that, in seeking an effective response to bribery, some member states do apply provisions pertaining to breaches of trust or the abuse of power. Articles 364 and 365 of the Penal Code of Ukraine criminalizing abuse and exceeding powers of office were not within the scope of this evaluation and, therefore, were not scrutinized by GRECO.

In any case, such provisions should be construed in a way that would not allow them to be abused for political purposes. The situation in Ukraine was not discussed as such and I made no reference to the Tymoshenko case which was not examined by GRECO.

U.W. At its meeting next week in Strasbourg, GRECO will consider its second addendum to the compliance report on implementation by Ukraine of recommendations given to it by GRECO back in 2006 during its joint first and second rounds of evaluation. While most GRECO members' compliance procedure is limited to two reports, why was it necessary to prepare a third report for Ukraine? What tools does GRECO have to influence countries which fail to implement recommendations over a long time?

As stated in the first Addendum to the Compliance report, Ukraine had only implemented satisfactorily, or dealt with in a satisfactory manner, 12 of the 25 recommendations issued by GRECO. This low figure, along with the fact that Ukraine had not managed to establish an overall independent anti-corruption body and a detailed plan of action for the implementation of the National Anti-corruption Strategy in accordance with GRECO's recommendations, were the main reasons for requesting Ukraine submit additional information.

When, within the framework of its compliance procedure, GRECO concludes that the implementation of its recommendations is globally unsatisfactory, it has a number of further measures at its disposal which place the country concerned under closer surveillance; this may also involve an intensified dialogue with the country or even, as a means of last resort, a public statement by GRECO's Statutory Committee.

U.W. Ukraine joined GRECO six years ago. Did Ukraine manage to improve the situation with corruption during these years and were the steps taken by the state authorities enough to combat corruption? Which of GRECO's most serious recommendations to Ukraine remain unimplemented?

The fight against corruption requires a long-term perspective in most countries. New concepts need to be adopted, sometimes requiring both constitutional and legislative changes. Moreover, new legislation needs to be implemented through awareness campaigns, training of public officials, and so on. Our assessment is that the legislative process has been slow in Ukraine. Many issues remain to be resolved, for example relating to the reform of public administration, the independence of the judiciary, etc. The establishment of an independent anti-corruption body, involving state authorities as well as representatives of civil society, and a solid plan for implementing anti-corruption measures, are much needed in Ukraine.

U.W.Does Ukraine have a high level of corruption compared to other Central and Eastern European countries?

GRECO does not measure levels of corruption in countries. We assess specific topics in each member state and so far we have found one or more areas that could be improved in every and each of them. Ukraine is no exception in that respect.

According to GRECO's joint first and second round evaluation report, Ukraine was perceived as being considerably affected by corruption, the problem being spread throughout the country and its public institutions, at central and local levels. Corruption appeared to be a systemic wide-scale problem. With this in mind, it is important to stress that GRECO's main focus is to assess steps taken against corruption rather than quantify and compare levels of corruption between member states.

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