With the OSCE Chairmanship, Ukraine has assumed an important leadership role in Europe, but faces persistent challenges related to its own record on human rights and democracy and ongoing reform process. To discuss Ukraine’s reform agenda and latest developments in the OSCE’s Human Dimension, Carnegie hosted Andriy Portnov, presidential adviser and director of Judicial and Law Enforcement Reform of Ukraine, Andrii Olefirov, deputy minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine, and Thomas O. Melia, deputy assistant secretary of state at the U.S. Department of State. Carnegie’s Matthew Rojansky moderated.
Ukraine’s Domestic Situation
- Judicial Reforms: Since passing comprehensive judicial reforms last year, Ukraine’s number of individuals in pretrial detention has decreased by 11,000, Portnov said. Moreover, persons accused of misdemeanors are no longer detained, he added. The reforms are intended to give defendants more rights and reduce the powers of the prosecutors; before the reforms, Ukraine had a 99.8 percent conviction rate, Portnov said.
- International Cooperation: The legal reforms were drafted under close consultation with the Council of Europe, Portnov noted. On controversial issues such as permits for opposition protests and rights for sexual minorities, Ukraine will abide by any ruling of the European Human Rights Court, Olefirov added.
- Transnistria: Conflict resolution in Transnistria is a top priority for Ukraine, Olefirov said. A meeting was held within the 5+2 framework earlier this year in Lviv, and more meetings are planned later this year in Odessa and Chernivtsi, he said.
- Regional Security: Ukraine has been a major participant in peacekeeping operations and will continue to increase its role in conflict resolution, Olefirov noted. The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh will be followed closely within the Minsk Group to prevent the renewal of hostilities, Olefirov added.
- Visa Regulations: Relaxing visa regulations or introducing a visa-free regime for ordinary Ukrainians is necessary to strengthen ties, Olefirov said.
- Areas of Tension: U.S. businesses encounter difficulties with Ukrainian customs and tax policies, Melia said. The issue of corporate raiding continues to spook foreign investors, he added. However, over time a new culture is emerging in Ukraine that will help strengthen cooperation between the two countries, Melia concluded.