On 25 January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted on the Monitoring Committee’s Report Functioning of Democratic Institutions in Ukraine.
I consider this document to represent a real victory for the Ukrainian opposition and a confirmation of its recognition in Europe.
You may judge for yourself - the text of the report outlines the following requirements and recommendations to the Ukrainian Government:
- Requirement to correct the law on lustration that violates human rights – “The Assembly expresses its concern about the issues with human rights that were violated by the law on lustration”
- Appeal to the Ukrainian authorities to respect the rights of the parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition, to ensure political pluralism, to allow the opposition to carry out its role in full
- Concern is expressed about the Ukrainian Government’s draft laws regarding language aimed at narrowing the existing rights of national minorities.
In addition, an amendment has been made that "the rights of national minorities to use their languages of national minorities, which are provided by the Constitution and all international commitments, should be preserved" in Ukraine.
And most importantly, the resolution clearly articulated the demand to the Ukrainian government to implement the Minsk Agreements on amendments to the Constitution related to decentralization. Over the last two years, we, the Ukrainian opposition, consistently demanded that the authorities implement the Minsk Agreements. We have submitted to the Parliament all the draft laws and Constitutional amendments necessary for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. However, they have been ignored by the Pro-Government Coalition.
Finally, the problem has become evident for our colleagues in the Assembly, since the report contains demands to all the parties of the conflict, including the Ukrainian authorities, to fulfil the provisions of the Minsk Agreements in the part of constitutional reform and decentralization. This is undeniable progress.
In general, the report prepared by the Assembly is, of course, a major advance for the Ukrainian authorities, even if it is perhaps too tolerant and complementary towards them. The current problems in the humanitarian and social spheres clearly indicate the degradation of democracy in Ukraine, rather than any progress of domestic democratic institutions.
It is very important that our amendment, demanding that the Ukrainian authorities respect the rights of the opposition, has been added to the report. In our opinion, which was supported by our European colleagues, Ukraine is in a situation that excludes equal political competition: this has been developed through the deliberate actions of the Ukrainian authorities. There is no pluralism of opinion, freedom of speech or conscience. The opposition is subject to persecution and discrimination. This applies to both parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition, as well as to non-systemic opposition.
It is equally important that the PACE recommended to the Ukrainian authorities to stop the experiments related to language, since the practice of the past few years shows a systematic attack on the linguistic and cultural rights of national minorities in Ukraine, as well as on the rights of Russian-speaking citizens secured by the Constitution.
Finally, another topic important both for the country and for me personally became the subject of active discussion on the margins, and was voiced by me in my speech:
This is the destructive policy of the government on the issue of the Church. Our position on the inappropriateness of the government's interference in the affairs of the church found broad support among the PACE delegates. I am sure that in the future we will be able to make this one of the central issues of debates and will achieve improvements in the situation. In fact, this applies to all the key issues outlined in the report. We, the Ukrainian opposition, will make every effort to achieve peace through the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, as well as to protect democracy, the rights and freedoms of all Ukrainian citizens regardless of their political views, nationality and the language they speak.