Helpless Rada

Helpless Rada

Off-site parliament meeting has already been included to the chronicle of Ukrainian parliamentarism. It was supposed to demonstrate the desire of pro-power majority to work in spite of "destructive" opposition policy to the citizens of Ukraine and to the world.

In practice, everything has ended up with adoption of specific laws pertaining to redistribution of budget and solution of narrow economic issues. The adopted documents don't even resemble those urgent measures for reforming the country's legislation.

Someone will name the April 4 a revolution, the other will call it farce. However, the real problem is helplessness of Ukrainian parliament, which cannot find its place in current social and political processes.

"The blocked parliament, urgency of presidential and governmental reforms, mass actions of youth demanding to secure EU integration. All these reasons made responsible MPs take initiative and adopt vitally urgent laws..."

Perhaps, this could be the very wording to describe the 4th of April 2013 in history textbooks, in accordance with the plan of experienced parliamentary leaders.

According to the VRU Head Volodymyr Rybak speaking to foreign diplomats, the off-site parliament meeting gave the possibility not only to solve a number of important national issues, but also to make a significant step towards EU-Ukraine integration. This idyll with dramatic elements also has a part for deciding mission of the President Viktor Yanukovych, who is to legitimize epochal elaborations of April 4 with his signature.

This is how parliamentary peripeteias look like from the perspective of their initiators. Exaggeration has become a habit of Ukrainian political elite, both pro-power and opposition.

However, the situation is perceived slightly by those not involved in parliamentary processes. The doubtful legitimacy of the off-site meeting had to be compensated by something, at least by taking resonant, systematic, and qualitative decisions.

It is logically obvious that such a desperate attempt of the parliamentary majority to conquer the resistance of opponents should have been appealing to the society.

Thus, urgent and critical for the society draft laws should have been adopted on this off-site meeting. In the country, where expediency is valued more than legal principles, such strategy could have been approved. If only they demonstrated the progress in adoption of the EU-integration laws, anti-corruption initiative, social standards, human rights protection, etc.

However, on April 4, only incomprehensible for the broad range of citizens initiatives were considered, like redistribution of budget and solution of narrow specific issues.

On April 4, the parliamentary majority has adopted 9 laws, which are already signed by the VRU Head and sent to the President.

4 of 9 adopted laws fall within the competence of the Budget Committee, which head Yevhen Heller became had particularly showed himself during the off-site meeting. Two other laws covered issues of the Committee on Economic Policy, and Committee on Taxation and Customs Policy.

For the balance, three laws on social issues were considered by the parliamentary majority.

Money against a background of parliamentary revolution

The first bill considered on the off-site meeting of the parliament was the governmental project No. 2177 On making amendments to the Budget Code of Ukraine regarding definition of some budget income. This document allowed budgetary institutions to attract funds for covering capital expenditure under state guarantees.

The effective Budget Code prohibits giving credits and loans under state guarantees to economic entities, if they are to be returned from the state budget. Only Ukravtodor and Euro-2012 project were exceptions.

We should mention, that Central scientific expert office of the VR have insisted on elaboration of the draft law, as long as removal of restrictions can unbalance corresponding budgets and increase the total national debt. The Budget Committee has passed similar decision. Nevertheless, these facts didn't stand in the way for adoption of this law.

MPs have also amended the State Budget for 2013, and redistributed expenses on newly-created departments – the Ministry of Revenue and Taxation and the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

The day of "putsch" was also favorable to the legislative initiative submitted by the MP Vladyslav Lukianov. His draft Law #2655 on creating favorable conditions for crediting agricultural sector – didn't quite correspond to its title, what was emphasized by jurists of the parliament. The bill provided increasing expenses of the State agency on land resources for 254 800 thousand UAH, and for 52 845 thousand UAH – expenses of the program of free issuing of state acts for the right of land ownership.

The path from the bill to the law was traversed by Mr. Lukianov’s "creation" with incredible speed. It was registered on March 29, considered by the Budget Committee on April 3, and voted on the very next day.

Well though-our reforms undoubtedly shouldn't be adopted in accordance with such scenario, should they?

Adoption of the Law #0974 on amendments to the Customs Code is an illustration of parliamentary sleight of hand.

At first, this draft law was supposed to establish customs benefits for the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction program. However, before the second reading the project contained amendments to the other articles of the Customs Code, what was recognized as a violation of the Procedure by the Central Judicial Administration of the Verkhovna Rada.

In another Law (#2476), MPs have provided state guaranties for liabilities of the Ukrainian Bank for Reconstruction and Development OJSC.

Amendments to the Law on Public Procurement #0884 were also approved, which included production facilities and service centers in Ukraine as qualifying requirements to participants of procurement.

Triviality with tincture of lobbyism – this is how decisions on economic issues, taken on April 4, may be characterized.

Regulation of separate issues may be helpful, but the parliamentary discussion on economic challenges is even more urgent. Discussion was absent among "constructive" MPs as well as it was absent in the blocked parliament.

Social reforms and benefit performance or Petro Symonenko

Communists, which supported the Party of Regions during the off-site meeting, had their own social trump card.

The Law #2547 drafted by Petro Symonenko provides penalties for non-payment or delay of wages, stipends, pension – 0.5% for every day of delay. Initiative of the CPU leader was taken as fundamental and will be considered in the second reading. Despite the absence of final results, the communists have partly managed to legitimize their cooperation with the Party of Regions in the eyes of citizens with the help of this law.

According to the results of meeting on April 4, MPs have adopted three social laws – # 0917, 1244, 1184. They regulate voluntary payment of unified social contribution by Ukrainians who earn money, secures national social program of workplace safety, and pension for men which have brought up five or more children due to their prominent services for Ukraine.

Similarly to the economic issues, decisions of MPs on social issues were of local character. It is especially obvious when taking the total number of registered in the parliament social bills. There were 186 such projects registered during first 100 days of parliamentary activities, not including governmental initiatives.

Having no possibility to influence the budget policy of the government, everything what is left to MPs is keeping themselves in hand.

European integration

Besides 9 laws, MPs have also adopted 13 draft laws as basic. These bills are to be considered in the second reading. Most of them concerned narrowly specialized issues.

The off-site meeting was justified by the urgency of EU integration issues, but it's difficult to say that decisions taken on April 4 have moved the issue forward. None of bills which secured fulfillment of Ukraine's commitments to the EU were adopted.

Consideration of two "European" draft laws (#1103 and #2032) on amending the Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes was postponed.

Pro-power MPs didn't support the bill #2033 on improving legislation regarding preventing and combating corruption. Only draft Law #2282, which empower the Authorized Human Rights Representative to bear state controlling functions over personal data protection, was adopted as a basis.

However, the most important is that these draft laws are still being developed. They arouse heated discussions among MPs and in expert circles.

Short summary

Neither the power, nor the opposition have any strategies for the future of Ukrainian Parliament.

Blocking of the parliament cannot prove itself as a method of political struggle anymore. Any actions which are supposed to be acknowledged by the society should have the particular results. The opposition is not able to show such results if its strategy is inconsistent or absent.

Pro-power majority remains in equally complicated situation. Despite the most influential representatives of the Party of Regions have received seats in the VR, they simply don’t have a place in the so-called power vertical.

Peak of the conflict is ot far, but there is still a chance to come to an agreement.

Oleksandr Klyuzhev, analyst of the Civil Network OPORA, specially for the Ukrainska Pravda.