Only two weeks are left until the end of the fifth parliamentary session of the Verkhovna Rada (until July 23), so MPs are in a hurry to address the most important stately issues. For now, the Parliament has picked two presidential bills to consider: on limiting the influence of oligarchs and on improving the ability of the state to counter potential military aggression. Both bills will supposedly be considered this week.
The anti–oligarch draft bill (#5599)
Status: included in the parliamentary agenda.
Who is affected: oligarchs, MPs, the President, ministers, civil servants, and public officials.
Summary of the bill:
- the bill defines three criteria to recognize a person as an oligarch:
- participation in political life:
- a person is a top elected official or is connected to such official
- a person is a member of a governing body of a political party or provides funding for a political party
- ownership of a company with a natural monopoly or a monopoly in at least one economic sector of the state
- significant influence over media:
- a person owns a media
- a person has a decisive influence over the work of a media (direct or via proxies)
- a person has sold a media to an associate or third party of less than impeccable reputation
- ownership of assets of more than 1 mln living salaries worth (near ₴ 2.3 bln)
- a decision to recognize a person as an oligarch will be made by the National Security and Defense Council upon the submission by the Cabinet, a member of the NSDC, the National Bank, the Security Service, or the Anti-Monopoly Committee
- public servants that contact an oligarch (for example, have a meeting or a discussion with an oligarch) will be obliged to report such contacts. Failure to report will be a legitimate cause for dismissal
- persons recognized as oligarchs will suffer the following penalties:
- prohibition to make donations to parties
- prohibition to buy objects of large-scale privatization
- obligation to submit the same asset declarations as public officials
- the law will be in effect for 10 years.
What is wrong:
- the Constitution does not grant the President the authority to designate anyone as an oligarch. Thus, any such decision can be challenged in court, the proposed draft law — in the Constitutional Court
- the bill turns asset declarations for public officials from an instrument to ensure the transparency of civil servants’ work into a punishment for oligarchs
- the bill will create more problems for officials and civil servants than for oligarchs. Since any contact with a person associated with oligarchs will become a legitimate cause for dismissal, public officials and civil servants will be at constant risk to unknowingly violate the law.
What else: the main scientific and expert department of the Apparatus of the Verkhovna Rada has not approved the bill: constitutionality of its provisions is doubtful, procedures defined by the bill can be easily abused, and its implementation is too complicated to achieve any practical results.
Alternative solution: fight against oligarchs should not be limited to registers or sanctions. To deal with monopolies and excessive influence of particular individuals, the state needs an impartial judiciary, effective law enforcement, and an independent Anti-Monopoly Committee.
Status: first reading. MPs still have time to address the shortcomings of the bills.
Who is affected: Ukrainian citizens, the Cabinet, the Ministry of Defense, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, government bodies, and local governments.
Summary of the bills:
- Territorial Defense Forces are defined as a separate military branch of the Armed Forces of Ukraine
- in every oblast and big city (with a population of over 900 thousand) territorial defense brigades will be created. Territorial defense battalions will be created in every raion and oblast center, territorial communities will be allowed to have territorial community volunteer units
- during peacetime, territorial defense military units are to be formed of contract servicemen and reserve officers. During the special period — also of conscripted draftees and reservists. Territorial community volunteer units are to be formed of volunteers
- commanding officers of the volunteer units are to be appointed by the Commander of the Territorial Defense Forces with consent from the Commander of the Special Operations Forces and local councils of the localities they belong to
- to be prepared for a total or partial occupation of the Ukrainian territory, a system of national resistance will be created. The tasks of the resistance movement will be to create resistance cells, interfere with enemy forces’ operations, and national patriotic education
- to launch the system of national resistance, the bills propose to increase the number of Armed Forces’ strength by 11 thousand soldiers and allocate additional ₴2.3 bln in 2022 for the upkeep (and over ₴700 mln total for the next several years).
What is right: by creating a unified system of territorial defense, the state builds its capacity to fight off the aggressor.
What is wrong:
- the Armed Forces of Ukraine are underfunded even now, so the state just cannot afford the proposed system of territorial defense and additional 11 thousand soldiers
- to involve local governments in creating volunteer units is a potential threat to national security. Local councils of some territorial communities are overtly pro-Russian and they will hardly help in creating a professional and loyal territorial defense
- there is a risk that territorial defense volunteer units will be used by mayors as their personal armies since local governments will get the power to appoint commanding officers loyal to them.
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