Ukraine can fulfill part of its commitments within the anti-corruption and judicial reforms. It should just not shy away from accepting the help from people who have already succeeded in the fight against corruption and making the work of courts fair and transparent.
The procedure for engaging international experts in the competitive selection in Ukraine is not new and has already shown its effectiveness. Having engaged independent experts, we managed to select independent and virtuous judges to the High Anti-Corruption Court, and we were also able to hold a transparent competition to select the head of the National Agency on Corruption Prevention.
However, despite positive results of engaging partners from other countries, many are unhappy about this cooperation. What is more, some notorious politicians and so-called pundits call this “interference of other countries into Ukraine’s internal processes,” which, of course, did not go unnoticed by these other countries.
On June 16, the EU Delegation and the US Embassy in Ukraine went public with the statements that “independent experts threaten those who benefit from the existing system and seek to maintain control over the levers of power in Ukraine.” They added that “the crucial role of independent experts in the selection process is extremely important to ensure that decisions are made based on achievements, not political motivation.”
In general, it is obvious that these two simultaneous statements from our key partners, among other things, were prompted by the competition in the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and the desire of some government representatives to promote a version of the judicial reform that does not meet the recommendations of the Venice Commission.
For example, the work of international experts in the selection of the SAPO leadership seems to be almost the only obstacle that did not let the competition sink into a mire of arrangements. At the same time, international experts have proven competence in anti-corruption issues, while some representatives from the Verkhovna Rada have not been able to prove their experience in this area, although such a requirement is stipulated by law.
In addition to professional qualifications, it was representatives from the Council of Prosecutors who prevented the adoption of the most resonant and even intolerable decisions both during the preparation for the competition and at the stage of integrity interviews with candidates.
Not by embassies alone! The same call to involve international experts in the selection committees was repeated by the group of seven (G7) ambassadors on the same June 16. In an open letter to President Zelenskyy, they once again pointed out that the engagement of foreign experts in the process of rebooting the High Qualification Commission of Judges and the High Council of Justice under a scheme similar to the one that proved effective in selecting judges of the High Anti-Corruption Court or the NACP head is key to rebooting these bodies.
Just last week, the president of the Venice Commission, Gianni Buquicchio, mentioned the same things. In its conclusions, the Venice Commission pointed out the need to engage international experts in the competitive selection and repeated it numerous times in relation to various institutions. Such advice concerned Venice’s analysis of the new draft law on the selection of judges of general jurisdiction, judges of the HACC, and this was also mentioned when analyzing the selection of judges of the Constitutional Court.
It appears that these recommendations go around in circles, but will they reach and be taken into account by the target audience — the President, the Parliament, and the Cabinet of Ministers?
The SAPO’s competition, future competitions for senior positions in the ARMA and the NABU, proposals for the selection of members of the HQCJ and the HCJ — this is the opportunity to select truly independent people for implementation of crucial reforms. However, at the same time, this will be a loss of leverage over such structures for the current government.
As they say, if you cannot handle your trouble yourself, contact a specialist. The engagement of international experts in the selection committees for important positions is assistance that cannot be refused. Moreover, the price of such refusal can be very high and even critical for our country and our future.