September 3, bill No. 1014, which was sent to the Constitutional Court for an expert assessment, and it is creating more and more rumors. As it follows from the text of the document, the head of state will be given additional powers. In particular, the president will appoint and dismiss the directors of National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) and the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI). At one time, the autonomy of NABU was the main condition for a simplified visa regime for Ukraine with the EU. It is believed that if this bill is passed, visa-free travel will be suspended or even canceled.
Meanwhile, bill No. 1014 contains a proposal to supplement Article 106 of the Constitution with a new list of powers of the President of Ukraine. In accordance with them, the head of state will have the opportunity to appoint heads of NABU and the SBI. Until now, the chairman of the NABU could resign of his own free will or for health reasons, or be dismissed if an independent evaluation committee recognized the inefficiency of the National Bureau and the improper performance of duties by its head. The appointment took place on an exclusively competitive basis.
MP Viktoria Syumar (European Solidarity faction) believes that bill No. 1014 violates the rules, previously specified in the Constitution. She suggested recommending that the president’s right be appointed to appoint the head of the NABU, but only on the basis of the conclusion of the competitive commission, otherwise, the whole essence of the uncompromising selection of applicants is lost.
However, 282 MPs voted for sending the bill to the Constitutional Court. This was another case when the Servant of the People voting was supported by the Batkivshchyna faction.
If we recall the principles of the functioning of anti-corruption law enforcement structures, in 2017 there was an attempt to rewrite the current legislation. It is not surprising that representatives of the Petro Poroshenko faction, who are now criticizing Zelensky’s similar actions, tried to establish control over these structures two years ago.
The bill No. 7362, which was then submitted by MP from the Petro Poroshenko faction Artur Herasymov, provides the Verkhovna Rada with the right to consider the dismissal of the leadership of NABU, Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAP), and the State Security Committee without an audit. That is, it was about strengthening the role of parliament, not the president. But the bill was not liked by our Western partners, therefore, it was subsequently removed from the parliamentary agenda.
The Delegation of the European Union made a statement that "Bill No. 7362, facilitating the dismissal of the head of the NABU and the heads of anti-corruption agencies, is contrary to Ukraine’s fight against corruption, the reforms, and the obligations. The bill should be rejected." The EU emphasized that Ukraine "should strengthen, not weaken, anti-corruption institutions." Actually, after that, the issue was closed.
But can they still warn Ukraine about such things, gently hinting that the price of the issue is suspending the visa-free regime? Vadym Karasiov, the director of the Institute for Global Strategies, states that they can warn but "it's not 2017."
Firstly, he says, this will not give any consequences, therefore the abolition of visa-free travel will not be a punishment for the government or forcing it to comply with the rules. Secondly, "NABU, SAP, and the SBI did not demonstrate the activity that our partners expected when they offered visa-free travel in exchange for creating anti-corruption bodies," Karasiov said. He adds that "this will only lead to irritation of Ukrainians by the actions of Western partners because banning visa-free travel means isolating Ukraine."
“I’m not sure that there is a threat of loss of visa-free travel,” says Bogdan Petrenko, Deputy Director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism. “Because the adoption of bill No. 1014 is not the step, by which Ukraine completely crosses the red lines. Europe will undoubtedly warn and even intimidate... But it is aware of the fact that if it suspends a visa-free regime with Ukraine, the country can reorient itself in a completely different direction. That is, simply put, it might turn away from Europe. And this is disadvantageous for Europe itself, not to mention Ukraine.
But, the expert warns, "if more serious steps are taken towards totalitarianism, then a visa-free issue might arise, but even in this case the cancellation might be temporary."