In a discussion on Tuesday with Ukrainian foreign minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko, MEPs voiced concern about transparency and fairness in the upcoming local elections, the recent restrictive law reforms and the growing lack of media freedom in the country.
"With the recent law reforms we have achieved a new political stabilisation and the consolidation of power. And let me stress that we are talking of 'consolidation' of power, not 'monopolisation' of power", said Mr Gryshchenko. The minister was addressing the EP Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday in an endeavour to soothe concerns expressed recently by many MEPs about the apparent erosion of democracy in the country ahead of the local elections on 31 October. The minister also urged MEPs to move forward on talks for a free trade agreement and called for a full visa liberalisation accord with his country.
A draft resolution on Ukraine tabled by political groups was due to be put to the vote by the full Parliament on 21 October but was postponed to the December plenary session. The draft text denounced the alleged increasing influence of the government over the media, the political role of the secret services and the adoption of new election rules, which were seen as a backward step. All these topics were raised during the debate on Tuesday, with Mr Gryshchenko welcoming Parliament's decision to postpone the vote.
"The decision not to vote in Strasbourg does not mean that criticism has disappeared", replied Rebecca Harms (Greens/EFA, DE), who also denounced the political interference of the secret service in Ukraine and its increasing pressure on the media, NGOs and even international bodies such as the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
"We hope the next elections can conducted openly but we also know that some people have been banned from standing for election and this is no way to proceed", said Elmar Brok (EPP, DE). A recent decision by Parliament's Conference of Presidents will allow two MEPs to travel to Kiev to monitor these elections.
"We are committed to respect for international democratic standards at local elections and in order to avoid speculation we have decided to invite independent international observers", explained the minister. He also stressed the benefits of the recent constitutional reform and highlighted a fresh government drive to fight corruption as well as the first signs of economic recovery.
"Your fight against corruption is targeting opposition leaders in particular. It would be more credible if you targeted members of your own government", contended Hans-Gert Pöttering (EPP, DE). Lastly, the chair of the EU-Ukraine delegation, Pawel Kowal (ECR, PL), called on the minister to involve all Ukrainian political parties in an effort to coordinate EU accession negotiations.