Warmed up by summer heat and boosted by the anticipation of upcoming vacations, Ukrainian MPs are now working by the Olympic motto “faster, higher, stronger”. During the last plenary week of the parliamentary session, the Verkhovna Rada is striving to consider as many important draft bills as possible. Today in our digest: SSU reform, presidential veto on a bill that was supposed to unblock yet another step of the judicial reform, and the ratification of the agreement with Turkey on constructing houses for Crimean Tatars.
Presidential veto on a bill renewing the work of the High Qualification Commission of Judges (draft bill #3711-д)
Status: the bill will be considered again, MPs are obliged to consider the proposals from the President.
Who is affected: the Verkhovna Rada, the Higher Council of Justice, the High Qualification Commission of Judges (HQCJ), candidates for judges, and judges.
Summary of the bill: the Verkhovna Rada will have to consider a recently adopted bill renewing the work of the HQCJ for the second time. The President proposes the following:
- to bring the bill into line with the European Charter on the statute for judges. In particular, to include a provision that the HQCJ can start making decisions only when at least 11 out of 16 of its members are appointed and at least 6 of those appointed are judges or former judges
- to resolve discrepancies in the text of the bill, in particular, concerning the decision-making procedure for a commission that will select the first cohort of HQCJ members
- to grant the authority to make decisions necessary for selecting the first cohort of the HQCJ not only to the Head of the Higher Council of Justice but also to the Acting Head of the HCJ.
What is right: presidential proposals are in line with the European Charter on the statute for judges and highlight discrepancies in the text that could have blocked the renewal of the HQCJ’s work.
What is wrong: presidential proposals do not address the issue of discrepancies in the decision-making procedure for a selection committee that will select the first cohort of the HQCJ. In particular, a provision from paragraph 17, item 16, section I states that at least four votes in favor are necessary to make a decision. The next paragraph, though, states that in the case of the 3 VS 3 votes situation the decisive votes belong to the two members nominated by international and foreign organizations. The second norm will never apply, though, since the first one requires at least four votes.
Alternative solution: the President should have included in his proposals one of the two alternative decision-making procedures for the selection committee: either the requirement for the majority of votes (4 or more) or the requirement of at least 2 votes from members nominated by international organizations and 3 total. That would have increased the chances that the committee will be able to make decisions.
What’s next: the Verkhovna Rada will consider presidential proposals. If they agree with them, the bill can pass with 226 votes. If they want to push the version adopted earlier, 300 votes will be needed to override the presidential veto.
SSU reform (draft bill #3196-д)
Status: second reading.
Who is affected: Ukrainian citizens, businesses, and SSU employees.
Summary of the bill:
- the SSU will no longer have investigative powers
- the number of Security Service employees will be gradually decreased from 31,000 to 25,000 by 2023, to 20,000 by 2024, and finally to 17,000 by 2025
- only candidates with experience in special services will be eligible for been appointed as the First Deputy Head of the SSU, heads of operational units, and heads of regional offices of the SSU
- the majority of SSU employees will have special ranks instead of the military ranks they have now
- it will be allowed to appoint candidates for civil service positions within the SSU and transfer civil servants from the SSU to other government bodies without competition.
What is right:
- the Security Service will no longer perform the uncharacteristic function of pre-trial investigation that is now used for bullying business and oppressing political opponents
- staff reduction will solve the problem with the staff overage in the SSU and free funds to raise salaries for employees that continue to serve
- the bill makes it harder to appoint candidates without experience in security as top SSU officials.
What is wrong:
- real staff reduction will start only in 2024: at the moment, 7,000 of 31,000 positions are vacant
- the SSU will keep its non-essential assets like kindergartens, resorts, etc. Although these non-essential assets do not affect the quality of SSU’s work, the state will continue to spend a significant amount of money on maintenance. Moreover, the fact that the Service has such assets does not help its employees with getting services better in comparison to those proposed on the market
- introduction of special ranks does not contribute to the demilitarization of the SSU: hierarchy imposed by special ranks at its core is the same as military and will not change the working relations within the Service
- provision allowing to transfer civil servants from the SSU without competition ruins the civil service selection system and will be abused.
To know more about the SSU reform, please read our blog.
Ratification of the agreement with Turkey on constructing houses for Crimean Tatars (draft bill #0110)
Sponsor: the Cabinet.
Who is affected: Crimean Tatars — IDPs from the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea, other Ukrainian welfare beneficiaries, and the communities of Kyiv, Kherson, and Mykolaiv.
Summary of the bill:
- Turkey sponsors the construction of 500 housing units (200 in Kherson, 200 in Mykolaiv, and 100 in Kyiv) to provide housing for IDPs. 90% of apartments are meant for Crimean Tatars, the remaining 10% — for other welfare beneficiaries
- Ukraine exempts from taxation and fees all goods, equipment, and machines that are used for the construction. Also, no land tax will be charged for parcels allocated for the construction
- future owners of the apartments will be exempt from all taxes and fees normally required for taking ownership of the real estate.
What is right: ratification of the agreement will allow Ukraine to provide accommodation for internally displaced Crimean Tatars and other welfare beneficiaries. The agreement will further improve the friendly relations between Ukraine and Turkey.
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