"Ukraine's needs have not diminished but because of the urgency and weight of other events it has found itself displaced for public attention." So says former EP President Pat Cox in an interview ahead of Ukraine Week, a conference on good parliamentary practice and law-making at the European Parliament on 29 February-2 March. Attended by a 40-strong delegation of Ukrainian parliamentarians, the week opens with the presentation of a report on capacity-building by Cox.
You have been leading the European Parliament's needs assessment mission to the Ukrainian parliament. Can you give us an insight into the work of the mission?
We conducted more than 100 lengthy interviews with members of parliament, committee chairs, the administration, non-governmental organisations and a wide variety of international groups. It has been a very in-depth listening exercise and we sought to make suggestions on what we feel would be the needs of a reformed Ukrainian parliament. Ukraine's needs have not diminished but it has found itself displaced for public attention.
Can you give us an idea of some of the recommendations in the mission's report?
The right of MPs to initiate law is one of the dominant expressions of legislative drafting in Ukraine to such a degree that the number of initiatives suggested by MPs is inundating the system. We have a number of suggestions as to how they might try to channel those energies.
We've also looked at political oversight of the executive and what the role of parliament should be, as well as the issues of openness, transparency and accountability towards citizens. We looked as well at the approximation of Ukrainian law to EU law and have quite a number of suggestions there.
It would be fair to remark that in post-Soviet systems party political structures are not very developed and tend to coalesce around strong personalities. Therefore we looked into the areas of coalition, opposition and dialogue. We also suggest that the parliament work on its code of conduct as a matter of urgency. All in all we have roughly 50 suggestions.
It has been just over two years since the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych from office amid the Euromaidan protests. What is the current state of play in Ukraine?
In the past few months extremely deep strains have emerged between the government and some factions in the parliament, and between various elements in the parliament/government and the presidency. This makes the current political situation very fluid and things are very tense in Kiev at the moment.
If you take the volume of legislation and reform however, the two years since Yanukovych's departure were ones of unprecedented change. Judged by the two decades since Ukrainian independence an impressive amount has been achieved. Judged by the objectives set out by the citizens of Ukraine in the sacrifices they made on the Maidan, there is still an enormous, unaddressed appetite for deeper transformation.
The Ukraine Week conference will be co-chaired by Elmar Brok, chair of the foreign affairs committee, and Andrej Plenković, chair of the EP delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee. The conference follows on from the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the EP and the Ukraine parliament last July. The draft agenda of the Ukraine Week is available here.