ACTION PLAN TO OVERCOME GOVERNMENT-PARLIAMENTARY CRISIS


Proposals prepared by experts of Reanimation Package of Reforms,

Strategic Advisory Groups, and the International Renaissance Foundation

We, a group of civil society experts, who – jointly with government representatives and international partners - take an active part in developing, promoting and ovreseeing the implementation of key systemic reforms, note once again the inconsistency and lack of transparency of actions of leading politicians and leaders of the country aiming at overcoming the government-parliamentary crisis. Unofficial sources quote different names of candidates for various positions in the government and offer different approaches to the formation of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. However, none of these proposals has been officially brought by leaders of the state into the public space. The chosen tactic of backstage efforts on looking for ways to resolve the crisis continues the practice of closed decision-making and shows that the government has not learned to speak openly with the society.

We stress again that the scenario of early elections as the most typical way to solve the power crisis in democratic countries, which entails the reboot of the parliament and government, contains many risks in the current Ukrainian conditions. The most critical of those risks are the closed party lists, which are formed by party leaders and oligarchic "sponsors" in a non-transparent mode and the high risk of vote-buying in single-mandate constituencies, which has increased as a result of falling incomes of the general population. These circumstances may affect the integrity of the election results and prevent real renewal of political institutions through elections.

There are other threats that come with snap elections. Those include months of stagnation of many reforms to be undertaken by a standing government that has been denied confidence. The result is the lack of support from the international financial institutions, the risk of default, and high inflation. It is also the risk of diminished diplomatic support from international partners, including the loss of arguments for the continuation of sanctions against the aggressor. Due to the delay in resolving the crisis, elements of this attitude to Ukraine are already being felt in communication with our Western partners.

That is why we remain resolute supporters of a scenario that involves political consensus among different branches of power that are crucial to overcoming the crisis: the President and the leading political forces in the parliament. Such a consensus has to be achieved to form a non-partisan, professional government with clear technical goals and objectives, the implementation of which will be the measurement for its performance, and for political forces that form it.

We believe that the fears of political forces that they might lose voter confidence as a result of the appointment of a non-partisan government are exaggerated. Parties still have important leverage for gaining the citizens' true confidence, primarily if they reject shadow politics and political corruption by inviting a non-partisan Prime Minister and appointing a technical government on a competitive basis (through offering one or more candidates for the ministerial positions), and then developing -together with the government – a plan of urgent steps of dynamic reforms. No one is taking away the parliamentary forces’ main function: parliamentary oversight of the government’s performance and of the effectiveness of implementation of reforms. The appointment of a non-political government does not prevent from them from on-going development, jointly with government officials and the society, of the required components of public policy reforms.

Open dialogue with voters will mean openness and accountability of the parliamentary political parties. We recommend the use of a wider range of open dialogue - from regularly engaging civil society in public policy making to showing integrity and transparency of party revenues and expenditures, and a proven match between politicians’ income declarations and their real lifestyles.

Such an approach can significantly raise pubic standing of any parliamentary party and, therefore, increase the chances of success in the next election.

Choosing a scenario for overcoming the crisis is certainly the responsibility of the politicians to whom the society delegated the representation of its interests. However, as members of the society involved in designing and implementing reforms, we feel and bear a significant part of responsibility for the success of the changes, despite the resistance of the old system. Therefore, we declare our readiness to continue cooperation with the government, the parliament and the President to intensify reforms. As a first step in this collaboration, we offer a general vision of the priorities that should be reflected in more detail in a new government’s Action Plan.

These, above all, are the following:

• the appointment of a new Government should be accompanies with amending the laws on central bodies of the executive power and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to improve the Cabinet’s performance and continue the civil service reform towards its efficiency and ensuring adequate salaries to the civil servants of the reformed public authorities;

• introducing an electoral system of open party lists, which will provide not only competition between parties but also the inner competition;

• providing new anti-corruption bodies with favorable conditions for work with the guarantee of maximum independence from political influence

• continuing comprehensive reforms of the judiciary system, both the courts and prosecution, to ensure not only their political independence, but also their full-scale renewal that will bring in new standards of performance and public trust.

These priorities and other important steps towards overcoming the crisis have been addressed in previous statements of the experts of reforms (from February 26 and February 14, 2016). We outline them in more detail here in the proposed Action Plan for the Verkhovna Rada and a future new government of Ukraine.

We are ready to discuss the points of this proposed Plan to assist new government officials and political forces to work further on such an Action Plan for the new government, and when it is approved, contribute to its implementation as much as we can.

The appointment of a new government and the adoption of an Action Plan by the Parliament, the willingness of all political players to take joint responsibility and form a team of managers (the government) to implement the plan will become a symbol of the politicians’ ability to go beyond personal or narrow party interests for the main thing - preserving the unity of Ukraine and enhancing reforms.

When choosing a pro-active scenario – i.e., shaping the non-partisan government, ensuring that the parliamentary majority is ready to support the actions of the government aimed at implementing the provisions of the agreed action plan, we make a commitment to promote such steps in the society and in the international arena. We also commit to taking responsibility for reforming the areas that require participation of professional, party- neutral experts.

Joint work designed to continue and intensify reforms is the basis for a public strategy that is able to take us out of the parliamentary-governmental crisis, allow overcoming the crisis of confidence in the government, and, therefore, make the improvements demanded by the Maidan irreversible and felt by every Ukrainian.

Public administration reform

The first steps must be made at the stage of forming a new Cabinet. In particular: people appointed to the ministerial posts should be ready to begin implementing reforms in their sectors of responsibility immediately; the Government should introduce the positions of Deputy Prime Ministers for the Administrative Reform and for European integration; the positions of the Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Minister of Information Policy should be eliminated. The Government should be based on the unconditional separation of state power and business. Applicants for positions in the government must present their vision of reforms to parliamentary factions and the civic expert community, and receive the mandate of confidence from the new Head of the Government. Furthermore, before the new Cabinet is formed, changes to the laws "On the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine" and "On Central Executive Bodies" (based on draft bill #2354) should be made. Priorities of the new government and the coalition supporting it should include the implementation of the new law "On civil service". This should involve the formation of the Committee on Senior Civil Servants, the appointment of state secretaries of ministries and the Cabinet, defining sources, stages and mechanisms for a real increase of civil servants’ salaries from the third quarter of 2016. The new Government must define a mission for each ministry and, in line with it, identify key structural units (new departments) responsible for major reforms (directions of public policy). New departments of ministries should gradually replace the existing ones, and overtake key functions. Competition for civil service positions in new departments should be open for existing civil servants as well.

Reform of electoral law

Reform of electoral legislation remains an important issue on the political agenda. In order to accelerate the implementation of an inclusive reform of electoral systems, the Speaker of the Parliament could create an official working group within the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which would include representatives of the government, civil society, national and international experts in electoral law, political parties and other stakeholders. The main tasks of the working group should include testing the key features of electoral systems and preparing amendments to the election law. Ensuring balanced representation of genders should be a mandatory part of all discussions on ways of reforming the electoral systems. In the short term, the new law "On Elections of People's Deputies” should be approved as soon as possible so that the next parliamentary elections are held under the new rules. The proportional electoral system with open lists in multi-member districts is the most appropriate method of forming the composition of the legislative body of Ukraine and strengthening democracy in the country. We believe that the relevant draft law registered in the Parliament is absolutely ready for the first reading. Before the vote, a bill signed by the Speaker of Parliament of Ukraine should be sent to the Venice Commission for review. In the mid-term it is necessary to re-activate the preparation and adoption of the single Electoral Code. We believe that the draft Electoral Code (especially its procedural part), which has received generally positive comments from the Venice Commission, can be taken as a basis.

Anti-corruption reform

Anti-corruption measures are key to implementing the reforms and modernizing the country. It is important to ensure full implementation of the anti-corruption laws approved after the Revolution of Dignity. Priorities include: ensuring the full functioning and funding of new anti-corruption bodies (the National Anti-corruption Bureau, the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution, the national Agency for Preventing Corruption, the State Bureau of Investigation, and the National Agency for detecting, investigating and managing assets derived from corruption and other crimes); making the system of e-declaration of public officials’ assets, without restrictions on volumes, operational from 2016, inclusive of practical monitoring of public officials’ lifestyles. Other priorities include launching the public funding of political parties - after they submit and disclose their financial statements. It is necessary to implement the new law on public procurement and extend the mechanisms of transparent and competitive electronic procurement to all public bodies and enterprises. The Parliament should also strengthen integrity of MPs, expand the autonomy of anti-corruption bodies, and establish a special judicial mechanism for high-level corruption cases.

Justice reform

Amendments to the Constitution on justice must be accompanied with all the necessary implementing laws needed for the justice sector reforms. There is a need to create conditions for the renewal of the judiciary, in particular through competitive mechanisms, evaluation of judges, through making judges obliged to prove the legality of the origin of their property. Thus, the public will receive effective mechanisms for monitoring the integrity of judges (a civic council on integrity), and honest judges will be guaranteed real independence: political authorities will be fully removed from making decisions on careers of judges. A judge who complies with all requirements of the law must get a high salary. The judicial system needs to be simplified by establishing a new Supreme Court and regional courts (courts of appeal). The Supreme Court as the only cassation court will review decisions in the most important cases only, and the time of receiving the final judgement on a case will be reduced due to the elimination of the current double cassation. It is equally important to create a separate anti-corruption court that will involve international judges in review of cases. Also, there is a need to create a legal framework for electronic communication between the justice court and the parties involved. Any court must accept a request for proceedings regardless of jurisdiction and independently transmit the appeal to the appropriate court (the one-stop-shop principle). Competition for the position of the Attorney General and judges of the Constitutional Court will be introduced; dropping the loyalty criterion will result in removing political dependence of the Attorney General and judges of the Constitutional Court. In the field of reforming the bar, competitive access to the legal profession should be guaranteed, as well as and the freedom of a lawyer to choose a lawyers’ association.

Reform of the law enforcement agencies

The key tasks of the reform include establishing the qualification commission of prosecutors and open competition for positions in the regional prosecutor's office and the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, the introduction of a competitive procedure for selecting the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, reforming the criminal police modeled after the patrol police, and ensuring the launch of the State Bureau of Investigation not later than January 1, 2017. Equally important is to ensure that the Security Service of Ukraine keeps its counter-intelligence powers only and deprive it of pre-trial investigation functions. Also, the laws "On the National Police" and "On the Prosecution Office" should be brought in compliance with the Opinion of the Directorate General on Human Rights of the Council of Europe, and a law establishing the community-based municipal guard shouldbe introduced.

Decentralization and regional development

Conditions for real decentralization have been made in Ukraine within the recent year. The budget decentralization has taken place, and a significant increase in local budget revenues has occurred. To enhance the coordination of efforts of the executive branch in decentralization, it is necessary to create a special body and designate a deputy minister and a department director in each ministry in charge of securing the ministry’s review and approval of draft bills on relevant reforms. Furthermore, the government shall adopt a resolution on the use of state subventions to support the community infrastructure (UAH 1 billion): the delay with this decision undermines the possibility to use these funds by communities and may discredit the mechanism of the state support. The order of usage of funds of the State Fund for Regional Development (SFRD) should be changed to provide that any funds unspent within the budget year shall be transferred back to the SFRD and distributed, next year, among all the regions, in accordance with the Budget Code. A competitive selection procedure for regional development projects should be introduced, based on project scoring by individual performance indicators. Equally important, a concept of capacity building for the local self-governance staff and quick training cources for some categories of staff should be introduced. Finally, the government should develop and submit – and MPs should adopt - a draft law “On Principles of Administrative and Territorial Organization of Ukraine”, and complete the streamlining of the administrative and territorial organization of Ukraine in 2016.

Economic reforms

The aim of the economic policy now is to restore fast and sustainable economic growth through better conditions for investments, a greater role of the private sector in the economy, and preventing corruption in the public sector. In the area of privatization and state property management, till the end of the year there should be at least three large objects should be successfully sold through competitive processes to strategic international investors. The list of enterprises not subject to privatization should be radically reduced. The State Property Fund shall be turned into a public assets management body that shall perform an audit of state assets. By June, it is necessary to finalize the adoption of laws to build a coherent and effective tax system that shall provide a level playing field for businesses, reduce compliance costs for taxpayers, eliminate opportunities for corruption and abuse by state officials.

The reform itself shall be fiscally neutral and the tax cuts shall be done in accordance with the reduction of the share of public spending in the GDP. To improve the conditions for business development, by the end of 2016 a program to improve Ukraine’s ranking in the “Doing Business” Index shall be implemented; a “regulatory guillotine” shall be launched; the oversight and control bodies shall be reformed. Other necessary measures include simplifying the foreign exchange regulations, removing restrictions on foreign currency payments for trade operations, and building a proactive trade policy in support of Ukrainian companies going to foreign markets. In addition, the government shall pursue a consistent policy on reducing the state role in re-distribution of revenues by completing a comprehensive review of public spending and by continuing the public procurement reform, the verification of recipients of pensions and social payments, and the verification of financial status of recipients of social payments.

A pension reform to be launched within the year shall include the introduction of an accumulative component of the pension system. To improve the investment climate, a large taxpayers office should be created within the State Fiscal Service immediately. Within one year it is necessary to introduce a procedure of ful automatic guaranteed VAT reimbursement to exporters. A ban on sale of agricultural land should be lifted starting from 2017, and restrictions on payments of dividends abroad should be removed. Finally, the government shall significantly increase attracting and using resources of international financial organizations available for investment projects in Ukraine. The World Bank-funded projects alone have unused financing amounting up to USD 2 billion, which is almost equal to all government capital expenditures in 2015.

Media reform

The key objective of the media reform is to implement the 2015 laws on public broadcasting, reform of the state and municipal press, and to ensure safe activity of journalists. Since early 2016 the process of creation of public broadcasting has been blocked by the sabotage by the Ukrtelefilm State Enterprise. The relevant ministries’ failure to undertake state inspections, the failure to meet the deadlines set by the government, the lack of control over the public enterprise now requires an immediate response from both the relevant ministries as well as the quick solution at the legislative level. Before the public JSC “National Public TV of Ukraine” is launched, it is important to increase and provide stable funding level to ensure the entity’s proper operation in line with its goals. In order to ensure effective implementation of the reform of the state and municipal press, a consolidated list of objects of reform and the list of mass media going through the first stage of the reform should be approved. Issues that may arise in the process of de-statisation should be identified, and a package of amendments to the law should be approved in the second half of 2016. At the same time the law enforcement authorities shall carefully monitor attacks on journalists in connection with their professional activity. The key factor for providing legal assessment of a case shall be the journalistic activity, not a formal status of the victim. Equally important, the law on television and radio broadcasting shall be renewed in 2016 in order to harmonize it with the EU directives in the field of audiovisual media services, and to introduce transparent licensing and sanctions on the media for violations; and to enhance the efficiency of the regulatory body as well as to provide the procedure for transition to digital broadcasting.

Reform of public finances

The improvement of the financial system by optimizing the budget expenditures and reduction of corruption risks in public finance spending by the government bodies is a key condition for restoration of the economic growth of the country. First of all, it is necessary to focus on improving financial transparency and accountability of the government, including that through the implementation of international standards in the system of evaluation and statistical accounting.   It is important to complete the reform of the approaches to the formation of the state and local budgets, by launching a program-target method in a comprehensive manner.  At the same time it is necessary to finalize the methodology for monitoring and evaluation of fulfillment of the budget and public programs, focusing on achieving the objectives of these programs in reality, not only from the formal point of view. Members of parliament shall promptly complete the reform of the public bodies of financial control by launching the activity of the Accounting Chamber, by electing its management. At the same time the Parliament shall strengthen the requirements as to the liability for failure to comply with the Law "On Openness of Use of Public Funds"; it shall also introduce the medium-term budget planning by making changes to the Budget Code as well as to adopt the law "On Reform of State-Owned Banks" to implement the Strategy of the development of state banks, which is aimed at the strengthening of international standards in corporate governance of state banks and ensuring their independence from political influence.

Energy and utilities reform

The challenge of the reform is the elimination of inflated paternalism and populism in the utilities sector, both of which destroy market relations and lead to excessive consumption of artificially ‘cheapened’ energy resources and destruction of both the motivation for savings and formation of mechanisms for savings. In planning the activities in the field of energy efficiency, it is necessary to focus on creating conditions for the full development and proper functioning of the local market of the utilities and energy services, as well as the reliable and safe providing of these services with the appropriate quality and availability. Among the immediate steps for Parliament one can mention the regulation of the commercial accounting, fine-tuning and adoption of the law “On Energy Efficiency of Buildings”, the adoption of the law on the National Commission on Regulating of Energy and Utilities Services, that would meet the European standards and practices in the activity of an independent regulator, as well as the adoption of the law “On Electricity Market”. The government shall immediately focus on the formation of the concept, structure and products of the Energy Efficiency Fund, and to finalize the legislative instruments connected with the laws on  energy service companies and “On Specificities of Implementation of the Right of Ownership in Apartment Buildings”. However, the government should develop proposals for adapting current legislation of Ukraine on energy efficiency to the requirements of European directives (Directive 2012/27/EU). Equally important is to change the approach to public subsidies in the energy and utilities sector, which should be targeted, monetized and should encourage to reduce consumption.

Healthcare reform

The efficiency of health care reform can be achieved only through the formation of trust, dialogue and mutual respect between all stakeholders: members of parliament, officials, representatives of local authorities, trade unions and civil society, scientists and industry practicioners. The parliament shall adopt a package of laws on autonomy of health care facilities and increase their accountability to the government bodies and local communities. It is necessary to adopt a package of laws to introduce new standards of industry funding and for creation of the National Procurement Authority for the purchase of medical services, as well as the law on public health and to legislatively ensure the implementation of the National Policy in Circulation of Drugs. Equally important is to review a declarative standard on the free of charge nature of medical assistance and to regulate legislatively the co-responsibility of the state and the citizens for the public health, including co-payments for medical care. The government shall adopt in 2016 the concept of reforming the system of public health and create a National Center of Public Health; the government shall develop regulations and the scope of the guaranteed amount of medical care in accordance with the economic capabilities of the state and shall adopt a comprehensive list of ways to legalize co-payment for services received by citizens, accelerate the introduction of system of standards in the health care. Equally important is to develop a model of shared responsibility for the organization of primary, specialized, inpatient, emergency and other types of medical assistance between authorities of different levels on the basis of administrative-territorial reform and decentralization strategy.

Reform of education and science

The key objectives of the educational reform is to ensure access to quality education, creation of educational environment free from corruption and academic “negligence”  and overcoming the gap between the education and other spheres of public life. In 2016 it is necessary to create main legislative support for the educational reform to ensure the rights of all citizens to have the access to the quality education, integration into the European educational space, establishing educational linkages with other areas of public life. In particular, it is necessary to ensure efficient mechanisms for implementation of the autonomy of educational institutions, academic freedoms of the participants of the educational process, access to quality education at all levels, including that for persons with special needs, assurance of quality of education and adherence to the principles of academic integrity. Also in 2016 it is necessary to prepare and adopt legislative instruments connected with the Law “On Scientific and Scientific-Technical Activity” as well as to improve the legislative regulation of innovations and intellectual property protection.

Environment protection

The priority actions of both the Parliament and the Government in the field of environmental protection shall be directed at speeding up the introduction of new accountable, controlled European system of environmental protection as well as the rational use of natural resources, according to which the environment shall be made safe for the life of the current and future generations and sustainable economic development shall be ensured. Among the urgent steps is the adoption of the law “On Environmental Impact Assessment”, that shall set the legal and organizational basis for the process of environmental impact assessment, aiming at prevention of the environmental damage, natural resource management, in the process of decision-making on carrying out the economic activities that have a significant impact on the environment. Also, it is necessary to pass the law “On Strategic Environmental Assessment" that will contribute to sustainable development and ensure environmental protection, integration of environmental requirements in the preparation and approval of state planning documents. Equally important is the improvement of the Water Code, Land Code and the laws on the protection of aquatic biological resources for the implementation of integrated approaches to the water management and adaptation of the water legislation to the EU legislation. Finally, it is necessary to adopt a series of laws on waste to help implement the five-level European hierarchy of waste management (in accordance with the Directive 2008/98 / EU) and to harmonize the classification of hazardous wastes and their classification according to the European list of wastes, as well as to establish control over the Transboundary Movements of hazardous wastes and their Disposal.