EU says Ukraine would gain 'credibility' by beating graft
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urged Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Monday to take tougher and more immediate action against corruption as his ex-Soviet country moves closer to Europe.
But Mogherini's visit was clouded by a decision by Ukrainian lawmakers the prior week to block a bill bannning discrimination against gays at work -- a precondition for visa-free travel to most EU nations.
"We stressed the need to deliver the anticorruption reform which is the key to credibility and sustainability of all the others," Mogherini told reporters in prepared remarks.
"I would stress the need to have anticorruption bodies that can start their work soon."
Ukraine has struggled to appoint a special prosecutor specifically tasked with tackling the graft and state privileges that have become endemic and put breaks on Kiev's efforts to achieve transparency and economic growth.
The complex inner workings of Ukrainian politics have seen activists and prosecutors wage war over who should sit on the independent commission that could appoint the anti-corruption chief.
Reform-minded activists have enrolled seven foreign and local experts to the commission.
But they are furious that the general prosecutor's office wants four of it own people on the board -- a sign of what critics see as its attempt to preserve the currently disfunctional status quo.
"Recently, we received a letter from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that spells out what further steps we need to take," said Poroshenko.
"I would like to inform you that on Friday, Ukraine resolved the issue concerning who should comprise the commission for electing the anti-corruption prosecutor."
The Western-backed leader provided no details and neither he nor Mogherini took reporters' questions.
But Poroshenko added that "I very much hope that either tomorrow or this week, parliament will adopt the legislation required of Ukraine for visa-free travel."
The European Union in 2010 said that Ukrainians' free travel depended in part on Kiev adding a clause to its Soviet-era labour code that would ban all forms of discrimination against gays in the work place.
Homosexuality was a criminal offence that landed people in jail or mental institutions in the Soviet Union.
Ukraine decriminalised it in 1992 -- a year ahead of neighbouring Russia -- but anti-gay prejudice remains high in large swathes of the overwhelmingly religious and conservative country.
A second vote on the anti-discrimination legislation is expected within days.
© 2015 AFP