Viola von Cramon

Systemic Political Pressure in Ukraine

Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

Members of the European Parliament -Viola von Cramon and Petras Auštrevičius sent a letter to the European Commission urging them to react on systemic political pressure exerted by President Zelensky on independent state institutions.

To: the European Commission’s DG NEAR

In the midst of pandemic and the calamitous economic meltdown when Ukraine needs international support the most, unfortunately, President Zelensky and his Government are willingly jeopardizing the wellbeing of Ukrainian people by aiding the narrow, self-serving interests of Ukrainian oligarchs.


The resignation of Yakiv Smolii, the respected governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, once again highlights what we already knew well: President Zelensky continues grave interference and systemic political pressure on few truly functioning state institutions.


Unfortunately, this is not the first case of a malign interference in the activities of important independent state institutions and represents rather a trend of destructive approach by Zelensky Government. Attacks on Anti-Monopoly Committee, National Anti-Corruption Bureau, the General prosecutor’s office and many more, are the unequivocal and unfortunate evidence of this trend.


Despite the President’s impromptu attempts to reassure the worried investors, he, as the main architect of the systemic political pressure, lacks credibility to be trusted. The exit of Smolii who managed to tame inflation, stabilise hryvnia, and negotiate a multi-billion Euro deal with the IMF sends a clear signal of uncertainty to the domestic and international investors at the same time and threatens to sink Ukraine in deeper economic and political crisis.


Especially now when Ukraine’s credit rating risks to deteriorate even further, the European Commission should demonstrate extra vigilance when dealing with Zelensky’s government. The financial ramifications of the systemic political pressure on independent institutions should be very clearly spelt out to the Ukrainian Government and the leverages of the Commission should be more efficiently applied in order to remind the associated partner of the EU of the obligations it has taken towards the international partners and more importantly towards its people.

Respectfully,

Viola von Cramon

Petras Auštrevičius

Letter of MEPs to call Merkel and Seehofer for Kosovo visa liberalisation

32 Members of the European Parliament, from all major political parties have co-signed the letter, which is calling Mrs Merkel and Mr. Seehofer to deliver under the German Council Presidency on the issue of  visa free regime.

The European Commission has already announced in July 2018 that Kosovo fulfilled all criteria in order to make visa free travel into the Schengen area possible.  However, the Council has not given its final green light and the citizens of Kosovo have been waiting for this decision for two years now. The European Parliament has called on the Council a number of times to deliver on our promise, last week we also referred to this issue in our recommendations to the Council on the Western Balkans.

You can find the letter here

Grünes Impulspapier zu neuer Gentechnik – Politische und wissenschaftliche Fragen und Antworten

Die globalen Herausforderungen werden immer drängender: Wir brauchen auch in Zukunft Innovationen, um die Klimakrise, die Biodiversitätskatastrophe oder die Welternährungsfrage zu bewältigen – und die Zeit wird immer knapper. Klar ist aber auch, dass keine einzelne Technologie alle unsere Probleme lösen wird. Wir haben als Grüne grundsätzlich einen systemischen Ansatz, zu dem Innovationen dazu gehören aber auch eine umfangreiche Agrarwende, für die wir seit langem streiten.

2020 geben sich Bündnis90/Die GRÜNEN nach fast 20 Jahren ein neues Grundsatzprogramm. Wir haben in diesem Zuge mit mehreren grünen Mitgliedern ein Impulspapier zur Rolle von neuer Gentechnik im Zusammenhang mit unseren Zielen geschrieben: https://www.gruene.de/artikel/neue-zeiten-neue-antworten-gentechnikrecht-zeitgemaess-regulieren

Für uns ist klar: Am Anfang steht die Bewertung neuer Technologien immer im Hinblick auf die jeweilige Anwendung zum Nutzen von Mensch, Tier und Umwelt. Das Vorsorgeprinzip als Leitprinzip der Politik steht für uns stets im Vordergrund. Auf dieser Grundlage wollen wir Chancen und Risiken der neuen Gentechnik bewerten und mit der Wissenschaft in den Dialog treten, die den neuen Forschungsstand in mehreren Stellungnahmen in die Politik hineingetragen hat. Gentechnik ist weder per se ein Risiko, noch ein Allheilmittel – es kommt auf Anwendung und Kotext an. Lasst uns darüber sprechen, wie dazu eine kohärente und risikobasierte Regulierung aussehen kann.

Zum Impulspapier möchten wir mit euch diese Debatte weiterführen und ins Gespräch kommen. Wir freuen uns, dazu als Gäste den renommierten Schweizer Agrarwissenschaftler und Vordenker ökologischen Landbaus, Prof. Urs Niggli als Gast begrüßen zu dürfen. Ihm zu Seite steht die Nachwuchswissenschaftlerin Dr. Natalie Laibach von der Universität Bonn, die im Bereich der Lebensmittel- und Ressourcenökonomik forscht.

Wir freuen uns auf den Austausch!

Eine Anmeldung zum Webmeeting ist hier möglich: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_f88DY9_zS0q0je-cFp9FUg

Elections in Serbia proved that democracy is hollowed under Vučić

Serbia has held its national and municipal elections on 21 June, after they were postponed from April. Most of the opposition parties has boycotted the elections; before the end of the counting, it seems that the governing coalition will have over 220 seats out of the 250, with only one opposition party and some minority lists being present in the national legislative body.

Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, shadows rapporteur for Serbia from the Greens/EFA group has commented on the results:

“Long before yesterday’s election it became clear that Serbian elections do not reach the basic democratic standards. The ruling party has been using state resources as its own; the media landscape did not allow a real debate, harassment and intimidation of opposition politicians did not make it possible to have free and fair elections. The boycott caused a situation where the winner was clear before the elections even started.

The European Union has not raised its concerns in the past years and we let this democratic backsliding happen in Serbia. High-ranking politicians from the European Peoples’ Party have been even actively supporting Mr. Vučić and they praised him for his work.

Aleksandar Vučić has a promise to have a stable country in our neighbourhood. But stability is not enough: we want to see a democratic Serbia. Under these circumstances, when Serbian democracy is in its current shape, the country cannot join the EU. The European institutions have the opportunity and the obligation to demand Serbia to undergo meaningful reforms. We, members of the Greens/EFA group know what we want: a democratic Serbia, which is member of the European Union. It is time for other parties and institutions of the EU to decide what kind of Serbia they want to see.“

Structural flaws of Ukraine’s environmental approach

Неофіційний український переклад знаходиться нижче.

Ukraine, the associated partner of the European Union is home to one of the last old-growth and primeval forests in Europe. Unfortunately, many of those forests are being eradicated through uncontrolled and illegal logging. According to independent estimates, the overwhelming part of logging in Ukraine is done illegally. Moreover, 40% of the wood imported by the EU from Ukraine is harvested and traded illegally.

This one example highlights a much bigger environmental problem, namely the lack of adequate Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) laws in Ukraine. Furthermore, members of civil society who speak up against such structural deficiencies often become the victims of legal and physical harassment.

To address these and other issues, my colleagues at the European Parliament and I sent a letter to Prime Minister Shmyhal and Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Razumkov. The copy of the letter was also sent to the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement – Mr. Várhelyi.

_________________________________________________________

Dear Prime Minister Shmyhal,

Dear Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Razumkov,

We, members of the European Parliament express our deep concerns regarding three major problems prevalent in Ukraine’s environmental policy. These problems include the environmental cost of the timber industry, the flawed execution of the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and the lack of safety of environmental activists. Providing home to some of the last old-growth and primeval forests in Europe, the preservation of Ukraine’s ecosystems is of global significance and must be a priority of the political agenda.

Deforestation and illegal logging continue to pose a major threat to Ukraine’s ecosystems and forest landscapes. According to estimates by the British NGO EarthSight published in 2018, 40% of the Ukrainian wood exported to the EU is harvested or traded illegally. While we welcome and support foreign and domestic investments into Ukrainian economy, the environmental cost caused by excessive logging and air pollution through the timber industry must be taken into account by the competent authorities.

Although the Law on EIA was adopted in 2017, the implementation still entails a multitude of loopholes. The implementation of the EIA is a key requirement of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (Annex 30). The current plan to build a new plant in Rivne Oblast by the Austrian wood-processing company Kronospan provides an example of the structural deficiencies of EIA in Ukraine. As you are aware, the area already suffers from harmful pollution by the chemical industry. Building the Kronospan’s plant with the currently agreed conditions will further deteriorate the ecological situation and endanger the health of the local population. Unfortunately, on this matter, the competent authorities neither considered the position of civil society organisations nor commissioned an independent expert analysis to evaluate the concerns.

Thus, the following measures are advised to be developed for the proper implementation of the Law on EIA:

  1. Establishment of EIA expert groups with involvement of independent experts to assist competent authorities in the decision-making process
  2. Development of subordinate legislation on EIA including official guidelines for different project types
  3. Securing high-quality EIA conclusion reports through the involvement of expert groups and civil society organizations

Finally, environmental NGOs and activists are repeatedly confronted with massive threats as a result of their work against illegal logging and environmental pollution. Furthermore, NGOs voicing public accusations against timber companies face legal harassments, commonly known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP). As a reaction to its critical statements regarding the EIA of Kronospan in Rivne Oblast, the NGO Ecoclub was taken to court by Kronospan for defamation. 

We call on the Ukrainian government and lawmakers to urgently correct the shortcomings of the Law on EIA and to develop the above-mentioned measures in order to fulfil a fundamental requirement of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Moreover, we highly recommend you to develop a legal framework in order to guarantee the security of environmental activists, journalists and civil society organizations along the lines of the upcoming EU anti-SLAPP directive.

Yours sincerely,

Members of the European Parliament:

Viola VON CRAMON-TAUBADEL, Michael GAHLER, Clotilde ARMAND, Michal WIEZIK, Olivier CHASTEL, Margrete AUKEN, Kira Marie PETER-HANSEN, Erik MARQUARDT, Milan BRGLEZ, Anna CAVAZZINI, Petros KOKKALIS, Michèle RIVASI, Markéta GREGOROVÁ, Mikuláš PEKSA, Nikolaj VILLUMSEN, Jutta PAULUS, Maria NOICHL, Helmut GEUKING, Anna DEPARNAY-GRUNENBERG, Maria ARENA, Henrike HAHN, Traian BĂSESCU, Helmut SCHOLZ, Miriam LEXMANN, Ramona STRUGARIU, Nicolae ŞTEFĂNUȚĂ

______________________________________________________

Неофіційний переклад.

Шановний прем’єр-міністре Шмигаль,

Шановний Голово Верховної Ради Разумков,

Ми, члени Європейського парламенту, висловлюємо глибоку стурбованість щодо трьох основних проблем у природоохоронній політиці України. Ці проблеми включають екологічні втрати від діяльності лісової промисловості, недотримання Закону про оцінку впливу на довкілля (ОВД) та відсутність гарантії безпеки природоохоронних активістів. Оскільки українські екосистеми є домівкою для деяких правікових та первинних лісів у Європі, їхнє збереження має глобальне значення і повинно бути пріоритетом для політикуму.

Знищення лісів та їх незаконна вирубка продовжують становити серйозну загрозу екосистемам та лісовим ландшафтам України. Згідно з результатами дослідження британської громадської організації EarthSight, опублікованих 2018 року, 40% української деревини, що експортується до ЄС, заготовляють та продають незаконно. Звісно, ми вітаємо та підтримуємо іноземні та внутрішні інвестиції в українську економіку. Однак компетентним органам влади слід також взяти до уваги екологічні втрати, спричинені надмірною вирубкою лісу та забрудненням повітря внаслідок діяльності деревопереробної промисловості.

Попри те, що закон «Про ОВД» був прийнятий в 2017 році, його реалізація все ще містить безліч лазівок, щоб його обійти. Реалізація ОВД є ключовою вимогою Угоди про асоціацію Україна-ЄС (додаток 30). Поточний план будівництва нового заводу в Рівненській області австрійською деревообробною компанією Кроноспан є прикладом структурних недоліків ОВД в Україні. Як Вам відомо, навколишнє середовище вже потерпає від забруднення результатами діяльності хімічної промисловості. Будівництво заводу Кроноспану, відповідно до погоджених на даний момент умов, ще більше погіршить екологічну ситуацію та негативно вплине на стан здоров’я місцевого населення. На жаль, компетентні органи не звернули увагу на позицію організацій громадських організацій, а також не замовили незалежний експертний аналіз для оцінки проблемної ситуації.

Відтак, для належного виконання Закону «Про ОВД» рекомендуємо вдатися до наступних заходів:

  1. Створити експертні групи з ОВД із залученням незалежних експертів для надання допомоги компетентним органам у процесі прийняття рішень.
  2. Розробити підзаконні акти по ОВД, а також пакети офіційних покрокових інструкцій для різних типів проектів.
  3. Забезпечити високоякісні висновки ОВД із залучення експертних груп та громадських організацій.

І на завершення, в результаті своєї роботи щодо незаконної вирубки лісів та забруднення навколишнього середовища природоохоронні громадські організації та активісти часто стикаються із величезними загрозами. Понад те, неурядові організації, які висувають звинувачення під час публічних компаній проти лісопереробних компаній, зазнають юридичних утисків, на кшталт загально відомих Стратегічних судових процесів проти участі громадськості (SLAPP). Внаслідок критики ОВД Кроноспана в Рівненській області на ГО «Екоклуб» позивалися до суду у справі захисту ділової репутації.

Ми закликаємо український уряд та законодавців терміново виправити недоліки Закону «Про ОВД» та розробити вищезазначені заходи для виконання принципових вимог Угоди про асоціацію між Україною та ЄС. Крім того, ми наполегливо рекомендуємо розробити законодавчу базу, яка б гарантувала безпеку природоохоронних активістів, журналістів та громадських організацій відповідно до майбутньої директиви ЄС проти SLAPP.

Parliament report on conflicts of interest exposes flaws in system for managing EU funds

On 19 June Members of the European Parliament voted on the report into conflicts of interest in the case of the Czech Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš. The report draws upon a fact-finding mission to Prague in February by Members of the Budgetary Control Committee. The Commission has yet to publish the results of multiple audits into the conflicts of interest around the business dealings of Mr Babiš and EU funds. The report was adopted with an overwhelming majority of 510 votes in favour (53 abstention and 110 against).

Viola von Cramon MEP, Greens/EFA shadow rapporteur on the resolution and Member of the Budgetary Control Committee, comments:

„This report lays bare the problems across the EU in stopping conflicts of interest from existing at the highest levels of government. The case of Andrej Babiš exposes the gaps in the payment system for EU funding: The shared management system has proven that there is a lack of transparency that cannot be tackled under the current provisions. We need revised rules that ensure full transparency about who the final beneficiaries of subsidies are.

„In the case of the Czech Republic, where the Prime Minister has direct influence on all levels of public administration and still is involved in the management of Agrofert, there is no independent information system. We need the tools to address these structural problems in the EU to ensure that EU funds are not siphoned off by oligarchs and those in power.

„In the meantime, however, a very serious conflict of interest remains with the head of an EU government who will shortly be negotiating the next long-term EU budget that could benefit him personally. The Council needs to clearly set out how it intends to protect against such conflicts of interest.“

Resolution zum Schutz von Cross-Border-Arbeiter*innen

Das Europäische Parlament hat eine Resolution zum Schutz und zur Verbesserung der Arbeitsbedingungen von Cross-Border-Arbeiter*innen in Zeiten der Covid-19-Pandemie beschlossen. Diese Resolution kann uns Rückenwind geben, um besonders in Deutschland die Ausbeutung vorwiegend osteuropäischer Arbeiter*innen in der Schlachtindustrie und in anderen Branchen zu bekämpfen.

Den Wortlaut des Entschließungsantrags findet ihr hier auf den Seiten des Europäischen Parlaments.

Meine Pressemitteilung zu dieser Resolution findet ihr hier:

Eine Zusammenfassung einiger wichtiger Forderungen dieser umfangreichen Resolution findet ihr im folgenden Fact-Sheet:

Hope for Belarus

After 26 years of Lukashenko’s dictatorship, people of Belarus demand change. Many new faces with different backgrounds are trying to register as candidates for the upcoming presidential elections on August 9. Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly), Lukashenko is using all methods – from jailing to torture – to suppress the hope of change.

The European Union has a moral obligation to support the fellow Europeans – People of Belarus – in their struggle for fair and free elections. With this goal in mind, my colleagues and I at the European Parliament made a statement urging Lukashenko to follow the will of his people. We also remind him that the EU will not stand idly by while rights and freedoms of Belorussians are being trampled down.

Members of the European Parliament:

Mr Andrius KUBILIUS, Ms Anna FOTYGA, Mr Michael GAHLER, Mr Andrzej Witold HALICKI, Ms Sandra KALNIETE, Ms Miriam LEXMANN, Mr Siegfried MURESAN, Mr Radosław SIKORSKI, Ms Viola VON CRAMON-TAUBADEL

STATEMENT ON BELARUS

Events in Belarus during recent weeks have demonstrated that citizens of Belarus want change. This is confirmed also by objective polls – people want a change in government, a change in policies. With 26 years of A. Lukashenko rule in a country hit by the pandemic and economic hardships, people want a real change – this is a clear signal sent by civil society to A. Lukashenko and to friends of Belarus in Europe.

Changes in Belarus are truly needed. They should neither frighten Belarusian citizens nor Belarusian authorities. The European Union is willing to help Belarus on its path towards these imminent changes. However, only Belarus itself can assume the responsibility to turn these changes into reality.

Changes can mean a change of the ruling leadership, or they can be policy changes implemented by those in power. History of world politics gives us several examples, where long-term leaders wisely listened to peacefully expressed demands for change of their citizens, and they themselves initiated a radical shift in their policy agenda to meet those demands. Belarus is now in a situation where both alternative scenarios are possible.

In the run-up to the Presidential elections in Belarus, we witness, as never before, high participation of civil society in support of alternative Presidential candidates to A. Lukashenko. There is a clearly visible division between those who want to maintain the status quo, and those seeking a real change.  Hence, on 9 August, the Belarusian people can make a truly strategic choice: to continue as before, or to choose a path of wise changes. Both decisions of the Belarusian people would be equally legitimate and respected, on the condition that they are taken during free and fair elections.

However, the possibility for the Belarusian people to choose in such free and fair elections depends largely on the personal decision of A. Lukashenko. Will he have the wisdom to hear the demands of his fellow citizens, or will he decide to suppress the hope for any change by non-democratic administrative means or even by force.

In case A. Lukashenko will choose the first option and will put an effort to demonstrate that he hears the peoples’ demand for change, it would be enough for him to uphold several basic principles:

  1. to stop harassment and persecution of politicians, civic and opposition activists, potential Presidential candidates, including Sergei Tikhanovski and Viktor Babariko, and to release those in custody, including Pavel Severinec and others;
  2. to allow registration of candidates who collected the necessary number of supporting signatures without any deliberate administrative hindrance;
  3. to ensure equal campaigning conditions, including in media, for all candidates;
  4. to guarantee a free, fair and transparent election process;
  5. to commit publicly to accept the results of the elections whatever the outcome;
  6. finally, to promise that if he wins the Presidential elections, he will ensure free and democratic parliamentary elections.

Such position of A. Lukashenko would allow for hope, that a policy change in Belarus is possible without a change of personalities in power.

This would also create conditions for the EU to open doors for Belarus to enjoy additional benefits through EU Eastern Partnership cooperation and support, which are urgently needed for Belarus in these unprecedented times when the country suffers from the pandemic and its economic fallout.

On the other hand, if A. Lukashenko once again ignores the voice of his fellow citizens, as was the case until now, and chooses again the second option, i.e. to deny the right to a free choice by administrative manipulations or even by force, – we will do our utmost to ensure that the democratic community responds with the most robust reaction vis-a-vis A. Lukashenko personally, his political entourage and the repressive structures.

Repressions, intimidation and arrests (including of members of the democratic opposition) are no way to conduct an election, or to bring a country together, but merely cynical steps designed to hold on to power at all costs. A. Lukashenka must understand that the EU will not tolerate such acts and that they should and will have consequences, including possible targeted sanctions on groups, individuals and entities, and will have an impact on EU decisions regarding the financial assistance to Belarus, including the resilience package.

We hope that this time this will not be necessary. Every authority has to listen to the voice of society, which demands change. Those, who do not want to hear, will remain in the margins of history. Those who listen and implement the demand, prove that they have the wisdom of a statesman. Otherwise, they must pay for the consequences of their actions.

Belarus is a strong and important European state. Strong states do not fear change. Change frightens only those who are weak.

Statement of European Parliament’s Standing Rapporteurs for Kosovo and for Serbia

Brussels, 16 June 2020

 

“During the Covid-19 pandemic the EU has stood firmly by its partners in the Western Balkans, providing medical and humanitarian aid coupled with robust financial assistance and inclusion in the joint procurement schemes. We have also been engaged in constant online political discussions with our Western Balkans partners and have strongly supported the relaunch of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue as a matter of political priority. Too much time has been wasted and we therefore welcome EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajčák’s first visit to Kosovo to be followed by his visit to Serbia next week.

 

As EP Standing Rapporteurs for Serbia and for Kosovo, we give full support to EU MR Lajčák in his tasks and urge political leaders from both sides to engage – in good faith and constructively – with the EU Special Representative. There is no alternative to the European Union facilitated Dialogue because both Serbia and Kosovo are European countries with a clear European perspective and both Serbia and Kosovo have committed to joining the EU. Miroslav Lajčák can count on our unequivocal support and our cooperation during his talks linked to advancing the Dialogue.”

 

Vladimír Bilčík, MEP, EP Standing Rapporteur for Serbia

Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, MEP, EP Standing Rapporteur for Kosovo

Kosovo: Government Crisis & Constitutional Shortcomings – a Never Ending Story?

Viola von Cramon-Taubadel MEP cordially invites you to join the webinar

Kosovo: Government Crisis & Constitutional Shortcomings – a Never Ending Story?

The recent dismissal of the Kosovar government and the formation of a new one without previous elections have raised a number of constitutional issues, which eventually had to be resolved by a judgement of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo. In this webinar we will discuss the judgement, the ambiguities and shortcomings in the constitution that led to it, but also political events around it with high-ranking legal experts – followed by a round of Q&A.

Monday, 22 June 2020, 19:30 – 21:00

Platform: ZOOM (https://tinyurl.com/y7apmtu5)

Host & Speaker:

Viola von Cramon-Taubadel MEP

Moderator:

André De Munter – Desk Officer for Kosovo, Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union, European Parliament

Speakers:

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Constance Grewe – former Judge and Vice-President of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Professor for Constitutional Law

Dr. Gjyljeta Mushkolaj – Member of the Constitutional Commission of Kosovo (2008); former Judge of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo; Associated Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Prishtina