Ukraine’s parliament today (15 March) approved a vital anti-corruption bill that Kyiv hopes will pave the way for visa-free travel to EU countries this year.
The legislation establishes public oversight over the assets of both senior and lower-level officials and their relatives.
They now have to file electronic declarations of their income and holdings and face criminal liability for any inaccurate or falsified information.
The data will crucially be open to anyone’s scrutiny online – a level of transparency that the European Union believes can move Ukraine closer in line with international standards.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Saturday (12 March) vetoed an earlier version of the bill that pushed back the asset declarations until 2017.
“Parliament did everything for Ukrainians to travel to Europe without visas this year,” Poroshenko tweeted after lawmakers passed the measure by an overwhelming 278 votes to two.
Ukraine’s 2014 pro-EU revolution was driven in part by widespread discontent over the corruption that enriched senior officials in a succession of previous governments.
There was no immediate response from Brussels to the parliament vote.
The former Soviet country had spent years negotiating a free travel agreement with the European Union.
But EU states had set a number of conditions on Kyiv that included the adoptions of the so-called “electronic declarations” law.
Ukrainian analysts believe that visa-free travel for tourists who wish to enjoy EU countries for up to 90 days could now come into force by the end of July.
The same timeframe is foreseen for the EU to lift the visa requirement for Turkish nationals, as part of a package deal to be agreed at the 17-18 March summit.
The legislation does not cover business trips and would not allow Ukrainians to work in EU countries during their stay.
But the measure’s adoption was still cheered by Kyiv officials as another step in Ukraine’s journey toward the European Union and away from Russia’s political grasp — a transition that sparked the country’s bloody 23-month separatist war.
Ukraine’s ambassador-at-large Dmytro Kuleba called Tuesday’s vote “unprecedented”.
It is “crucial for fighting corruption in Ukraine,” Kuleba tweeted.
Rada adopts unprecedented law on e-declarations in line with EU standards. Crucial for fighting corruption in Ukraine.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) March 15, 2016
Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius told EurActiv.com that the EU should grant visas to Ukrainians not as a gesture, because of the big progress they made in meeting the requirements.