Ukraine visa deal hangs in the balance
The prospect of Ukrainians gaining visa-free travel to the EU is fading, amid a bitter row over the introduction of a computer system for public officials to declare their interests.
The measure was the final remaining condition set by the EU to allow visa waivers.
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The government put the system online on 15 August, which was the agreed deadline.
But the state service for government communications (SSSCIP) refused to certify the system, saying technical problems mean that the system was incapable of properly protecting information.
The lack of certification means information from the system cannot be used to prosecute officials.
Critics accused the SSSCIP of deliberately sabotaging the introduction of the system in order to protect corrupt officials.
President Petro Poroshenko vowed last week that the system would be launched on time.
“Electronic asset declarations will be launched on 15 August,” Poroshenko wrote on his Facebook page last Thursday (11 August). “I'm not considering another date and can't even hear of a delay! I'm asking you not to believe in rumours and speculation.”
The system is linked both to the lifting of visas for Ukrainian citizens wishing to travel to the EU, as well as payment of the next tranche of funds from the International Monetary Fund and other financial assistance from the EU and the World Bank.
Corruption is the main obstacle to granting Ukrainians visa freedom, an EU source told this website in June.
The EU Delegation to Ukraine said it was “very disappointed and concerned” by the launch of an incomplete system.
The delegation said the system needed to be certified “to ensure criminal liability for making false statements”.
“This is essential for making such a system work and contribute to combating corruption, in accordance with Ukraine's commitments to the EU and to the international community,” the delegation wrote on Facebook.
“From what we understand there are no substantive reason for withholding certification. Certification should be provided without further delay.”
Ukrainians will be bitterly disappointed if the issue of e-declarations forfeits their chances at visa free travel. The deal has been negotiated for eight years already.
But Yehor Sobolev, an MP of the Self-help party and head of the anti-corruption committee in Ukraine’s parliament, said his country needed “tough love” from the EU.
”The position of our key international partner should be firm. Corruption means no visa freedom. Indeed, it is very easy for the Ukrainian government to implement anti-corruption legislation that we - the MPs - have adopted. And that is what Ukrainian society needs,” Sobolev told this website.