The European Union on Thursday (21 April) rapped a proposed change in Ukrainian law that would let President Petro Poroshenko appoint an ally with no legal experience to the prosecutor general’s post.
The chief prosecutor’s office has been widely condemned as a breeding ground for corruption and needs an overhaul for Ukraine to move on its path towards closer European Union ties.
Disgraced prosecutor general Viktor Shokin stood down in the midst of a protracted crisis that came to a head in mid-April with the resignation of prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his replacement with Poroshenko protege Volodymyr Groysman.
Shokin was accused of blocking investigations into top officials who served under Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych prior to his February 2014 ouster in the pro-Western revolt in the former Soviet country.
Several of Shokin’s underlings were discovered hoarding piles of cash and diamonds in their apartments and are now facing trial.
Poroshenko’s parliamentary party has submitted a draft law allowing the president to appoint a chief prosecutor who has no legal training or the currently-required 10 years of experience practising law.
Yuriy Lutsenko – the head of Poroshenko’s group in parliament – has said he was in the running for the position despite graduating from university with an electric engineering degree.
But visiting EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said Poroshenko should appoint an “independent” person to one of Ukraine’s most powerful posts.
“The population needs a clear sign of commitment to vigorous reform and to end its past practises,” Hahn told reporters.
“And they expect the general prosecutor to be somebody who is familiar with legal questions and should have a background as a lawyer.”
Some analysts fear that Poroshenko may be consolidating too much power and alienating political parties that had joined forces with him after his election as president in May 2014.
The 50-year-old leader has vowed to undertake transparency and economic restructuring measures that would let Ukraine apply for EU membership by 2020 and later consider joining the NATO military bloc.
But some of Kyiv’s most important allies and Poroshenko’s own supporters have become disenchanted with Ukraine’s constant internal political infighting and seeming inability to fight state graft.