the fight against corruption and the strengthening of the rule of law

Written by on February 2, 2023

Ukraine is embarking on a major “clean hands” operation. While around fifteen European commissioners arrive in kyiv in anticipation of a summit this Friday, February 3 in the capital, the Ukrainian authorities are more than ever hunting down corruption.

Wednesday, February 1, a dozen searches took place across Ukraine against officials, administrations, personalities from the business world. The boss of the Ukrainian security service speaks of “dealing a blow to the internal enemy”, of “handcuffing” those who “have the audacity to harm Ukraine”.

The widely publicized operation comes just a week after a huge “embezzlement” scandal at the Ministry of Defense where several officials had received bribes in the purchase of food rations for soldiers and especially vests bulletproof which had proved to be totally ineffective.

Today, new suspicions of corruption target the Customs department, which has been sacked; the former Minister of the Interior; the head of the tax services – in his residence the investigators found watches and luxury cars, and several hundred thousand dollars in cash. But at the heart of the storm there is above all a billionaire with a sulphurous reputation, Igor Kolomoiski, one of the richest men in Ukraine, accused of having embezzled and laundered nearly a billion euros when he directed oil companies. The symbol is all the stronger as he was close to Volodymyr Zelensky before he became president.

Corruption, both small and large, is an endemic evil in Ukraine (the examples we have just mentioned come as no surprise to anyone). However, to get closer to the European Union, kyiv will have to clean up a lot. It is true that the country has already obtained the status of candidate for membership: the war gave a great boost to this rapprochement, but its partners have no desire to see their money flow through their fingers. , especially when it comes to disbursing funds for reconstruction.

Besides, they have already made demands. Brussels has defined seven steps to take, seven major essential reforms: the fight against corruption and the strengthening of the rule of law are the two priority objectives.

Volodymyr Zelensky, who had been a little disappointed at the start of his mandate in this area, clearly understood that it was necessary to give clear signals without delay and to be exemplary. He who in his speeches shows his determination to fight against corruption must now prove that his words are a reflection of reality. But the fact that Ukraine is capable in time of war of unmasking senior officials is already proof of institutional, legal and democratic maturity.

Suspicions of corruption in Brussels: the European Parliament lifts the immunity of two MEPs
The Belgian Marc Tarabella and the Italian Andrea Cozzolino, who deny any embezzlement, have themselves approved this decision, which opens the way for future hearings by the investigators.

Belgian justice will be able to launch its hearings. The European Parliament voted on Thursday, February 2, to lift the immunity of two MEPs cited in the alleged corruption scandal for the benefit of Qatar and Morocco. The Belgian Marc Tarabella and the Italian Andrea Cozzolino, already temporarily excluded from the Socialists & Democrats group, have come out in favor of lifting their own immunity. They deny any wrongdoing.

According to the parliamentary report on the lifting of the immunity of Marc Tarabella, written by the rebellious MEP Manon Aubry, the elected representative of the left “is suspected of having supported certain positions within the European Parliament in favor of a third State in exchange for cash rewards”. A former Socialist MEP claimed in December to have paid him “between 120,000 and 140,000 euros”, in several instalments, for his help in matters related to Qatar.

As for Andrea Cozzolino, who until January was chairman of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with the Maghreb, he “is suspected of having participated in an agreement (…) which provided for collaboration in order to protect the interests of foreign states in the European Parliament”, according to the parliamentary report on it. And this “in particular by preventing the adoption of parliamentary resolutions which could harm the interests of these States, in exchange for sums of money”.

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