Interview with Head of the Council of Europe office in Ukraine Morten Enberg (05.06.2019)

In “Eurointegrators,” media expert and ex-Deputy Minister for Information Policy of Ukraine Tetiana Popova sits down with diplomats, heads of international organizations, and Ukrainian power brokers to discuss Ukraine’s European integration.

In this episode, the guest is Head of the Council of Europe office in Ukraine Morten Enberg.

The show is produced by a Ukrainian NGO Information Security and Oboz.TV.

See the text version of the interview:

Popova: Hello, this is a new episode of the program “Eurointegrators”, and my guest today is Morten Enberg, Head of the Council of Europe office in Ukraine.

According to the Council of Europe “Plan for Ukraine”, there is a strong focus on reforming judiciary and prosecutor’s office. What are the areas and what are the priorities of these reforms?

Enberg: Thank you for this question. Yes indeed, we do have an Action Plan between the government of Ukraine and Council of Europe starting from last year, the new one was adopted last year. Part of the priorities of this Action Plan is reform in the judiciary, including also other law enforcement policy, including the prosecutor’s office. We have been focusing within the judiciary; we have been focusing lately on setting up the new court system that was decided after the changes to the constitution regarding the judiciary in 2016. We have been supporting, we have given advice to the new text of the constitution, we have given advice to the following laws, we have given advice regarding the setting up of new bodies of the judiciary, such as High Qualification Commission, and also the High Council of Justice. And with the prosecutor’s office, it’s also a part of the Action Plan, and I want to remind you that this Action Plan is developed together with Ukrainian partners, together with the Ukrainian authorities. So, with the prosecutor’s office, for instance, what we are doing right now, we have been doing a lot previously, right now we are performing an assessment, regarding managerial structure within the prosecutor’s office.

Popova: What is the result of your previous help to the prosecutor’s office?

Enberg: First of all, it has gone from a different type of system, where the investigatory system is more now separate and independent than it was beforeю And it’s gone from a four-tiered system to a three-tiered system, this is also in line with the Council of Europe standards, as a few examples. And also very important with the prosecutor’s system the set-up of so-called self-governing bodies in the prosecutor’s system, the Disciplinary commission and the High commission for prosecutors.

Popova: What would you recommend to do about territorial communities who doesn’t want to be amalgamated?

Enberg: The decentralization is also a part from the judiciary reform. The decentralization is also a successful reform; we work very closely with the authorities on this. Currently we have about 30% of Ukrainian territory, covered by newly amalgamated communities, but of course, we need more. The government have set up an ambitious plan that the whole decentralization reform should be finished by 2020. What this will mean for the amalgamated communities – it’s too early to say, it might work with the voluntary aspect that is going on now, they are amalgamating on a voluntary basis, but there are also discussions inside the government currently, that maybe it will be necessary to have a separate law to promote amalgamation. If there will be a separate law and if the Council of Europe is asked to provide an assessment on this law – we will do it, in accordance with our standards.

Popova: They should do it before 2020, yes? Do you think they will be able to do it?

Enberg: I hope so. We will do our best to support it.

Popova: Is the Council of Europe able to monitor situation with human rights in the occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas?

Enberg: During my time here in Ukraine, there has not been any official Council of Europe visits to Crimea, but the previous Commissioner for Human Rights went to Donbas to the occupied territories. A newly elected Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović is planning to visit Ukraine. What places she will be able to visit at that time, I don’t know yet. But this is a sort of a mechanism we have for monitoring human rights – the Commissioner for Human Rights.

Popova: Does it mean that you are not working with some local organization to monitor cases?

Enberg: My office – we do not have a mandate to work in Crimea at the moment.

Popova: Council of Europe signed the Memorandum with the Central Election Commission. How do you work with them and do you maybe do in some kind monitoring that election was honest and democratic?

Enberg: The office here in Ukraine – we do not do monitoring as such. We provide support to the different Ukrainian institutions. With the CEC, we have a Memorandum on cooperation. We provided support for the elections in developing a handbook for the election commissions, almost 30,000 of them, on how to work with the accordance on Ukrainian legislation on Election Day and during the whole procedure that they work. We also supported with different trainings, for instance for journalists on ethical reporting during the elections. To mention a few things that we have done. And then we have the Memorandum itself as a long-term cooperation in plans, that also includes such things as looking at a various types of legislation, looking at issues regarding cyber-security and many other areas.

Popova: But you also mentioned me that you have a delegation of parliamentarians, or members of the Council of Europe’s Parliament Assembly, who arrive to Ukraine to monitor the presidential election. So they are monitoring, but are there personal individuals from their countries, yes?

Enberg: Yes, from the Parliamentary Assembly, one of the institutions of Council of Europe, they monitor elections and they came here also with the delegation of parliamentarians from the Parliamentary Assembly from different member states of the Council of Europe. 27 of them arrived.

Popova: How do you see Angela Merkel’s speech on Munich Conference, which emphasize the need of solidarity in Europe? Does Europe really need now more solidarity? And what about solidarity of Europe and Ukraine, from your point of view?

Enberg: Well, I don’t want to comment on the Chancellor’s speech in particular. But one thing that we as Council of Europe do is that we develop common standards for all of our member states. The basic standard is of course what is written into the European Convention on Human Rights, the founding document of the Council of Europe, and based on this we develop the same standards for all our 47 member states. And for us what is solidarity means, that we all adhere to the same democratic standards and principles.

Popova: One more guest will join our interview now. This is Serhiy Tomilenko, Head of the National Journalists’ Union of Ukraine. The Council of Europe developed the Platform for journalists’ protection and safety. What are the aims of this platform? And how do you cooperate with Ukrainian organizations, governmental and non-governmental?

Enberg: The aim of this Platform is of course to increase the safety for journalists. That’s of course the main aim. We cooperate in Ukraine both with the organization called the Institute for mass information, that Is the Ukrainian organization that provides information to the platform about potential problems regarding safety of journalists.

Popova: It’s not only potential problems, there are reported cases, right?

Enberg: There are reported cases there. On the government side we cooperate with the Ministry for information policy, they have reacted to several of these cases, and this is our official partner of the government side. But for us it’s also important to work with the preventive side, which we do also with the Ministry, with the Institute for mass information, but also importantly we work very well together with law-enforcement agencies on this – the prosecutors, the judges, the police, minister of interior. What we do is that we provide trainings to the people working in these agencies. And regarding safety on journalists what other Council of Europe standards on safety on journalists, how can the members of different organizations – police, judges, prosecutors etc., how can they improve their work to better protect journalists in Ukraine, This is an important part of what we are working with them. We have a good cooperation in this area.

Popova: Serhiy, how do you work with this Platform? Is it helpful for the National Journalists’ Union of Ukraine? As far as I know, you have 18,000 journalist members in your union. Do you report your cases into this platform?

Tomilenko: Yes, of course, they really help and we are thankful to the Council of Europe for their assistance and instruments regarding fighting impunity.  Due to our partnership and membership in European federation of journalists we use our rights to recommend and present such cases, share information on attacking Ukrainian journalists and put it in this platform. Part of this information comes from our experts, from members of National Union of Journalists. However, I would like to ask Mr. Morten – how could we jointly raise the effectiveness of this important instrument. It seems to me that Ministry of Information Policy and Ministry of Internal Affairs they just demonstrate their activities, they just provide their formal explanations about how the investigation goes. I could mention one case that was registered in Berdyansk of Zaporizhya region – the story was about an attack on a journalist of a local TV channel. But later we saw the formal response instead of effective and productive investigation activities. So, we need to start a kind of broader public discussions of such issues.  Our experts, journalists who suffered are ready to become the part of the process together with representatives of Council of Europe and ministries I mentioned above. We have to provide some pressure to achieve fair and clear solutions on those cases. We don’t want to have only formal respond-letters in this platform.

Popova: What can you say about safety of journalists in Ukraine? How does the National Journalists’ Union of Ukraine cooperate with the Platform of the Council of Europe?

Tomilenko: There are not so much cases in the platform as we mainly put here in the platform just resonance cases. I would mention about 5 or 7 stories in one year period. We want to use national instruments more effectively, that is a priority in our work. We would not like to overload the platform with many accidents, which happen; the index of physical assaults against journalists in Ukraine is very high. So, I would draw attention to the fact that we have very alarming figures regarding attacks on woman working in the media, that index grew 50 % last year and such situation becomes wide spread in the country. This aggression is a frightening point. I know the Council of Europe keeps attention on that problem as well as the office of OSCE does. I can assure that the attacks on women issue is also a priority for us.

Popova: Thank you, Serhiy, for joining our interview. In the recent report of the Council of Europe Russians’ intolerance to Ukraine shows quite high numbers. Does Council of Europe work somehow to decrease level of intolerance or hate speech towards other nations or inside countries?

Enberg: Yes, important question of course. Tolerance is a part of one of our priorities inside the Council of Europe. Tolerance towards each of the citizens that are part of the Council of Europe and of course in general tolerance towards your fellow human being whatever where she or he is from. We have done a lot of campaigns lately regarding as you rightly mentioned “No hate speech”, to increase tolerance towards everyone inside the Council of Europe member states. So this is something that we have as the priority.

Popova: What is the current situation with Russia in the Council of Europe? Does the majority of the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly support Russia to continue its membership? And how do you do this campaigns against hate speech if, as far as I understand, Russia is now not paying membership fee and not able to word in the Parliamentary Assembly?

Enberg: First of all, we do these campaigns all over the Council of Europe, in all our states. And Russia is still our member state. There is a Council of Europe office in Russia as well that can provide this type of important campaigns, also in Russia and in many other member states of the Council of Europe. Russia is currently not taking part in the work of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. This happened after the resolution of 2015, where based on the events of Crimea and Donbas, where Russia’s right to vote was taken away, that was voted in the Parliamentary Assembly. Russia meant chose to leave the Parliamentary Assembly. The situation with Russia now is that they are not still a part of the Parliamentary Assembly, but they are a member of the Council of Europe, they take part in the Committee of Ministers. For Russia to return to the Parliamentary Assembly, they would have to apply, which you can do once a year in January session, to get apply for the credentials. And then for them to get the voting rights back, there would have to be a resolution that would lift that kind of sanctions.

Popova: Sanctions about the occupation of Crimea?

Enberg: The resolution is, yes, about that.

Popova: There will be election in the European Parliament. I know that is not the Council of Europe’s question, but still, it will be the new reality after that in Europe. Would it influence the work of the Council of Europe?

Enberg: Well, I’m actually glad that you ask me this question, because I think it’s important for everyone, including all of the viewers make the distinction between the Council of Europe and the European Union. The election you are talking about is of the European Parliament that is a part of the European Union. We, the Council of Europe, have a different parliamentary assembly that is not concerned with these elections at all. And to answer to what will happen after the elections, well, first let’s see what the elections will look like.

Popova: The Vice-Minister of Foreign affairs Serhiy Kyslytsia said that “the Council of Europe is in crisis trying to prove that its values are not being sold”. Can you confirm that crisis? Or because Russia has stopped paying membership fee and Turkey decreased its membership fee, it’s just a small temporary finance problem, and there’s a need to reform the Council of Europe because of that?

Enberg: Mr. Kyslytsia, Vice-Minister is the colleague that I respect highly. These opinions – it will stand for him. For me, you say rightly that the Council of Europe, of course, we are facing challenges now, everyone acknowledges that, due to the non-payment of Russia and due to the decrease of payment from Turkey. Currently this is being addressed the current Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, this is Finland. They are having very serious discussion and they are looking how to come up with the proposals and how to deal with these challenges. We will see what type of suggestions that will come up.

Popova: I know that the Council of Europe has some entities, like the Venice Commission or GRECO. How do these organizations work with Ukraine and how do they help to prevent corruption or to prevent some money laundering?

Enberg: This is also very important part of the cooperation between the Council of Europe and in this case Ukraine. Of course, this cooperation goes with all of the member states, but what for instance GRECO that deals with anti-corruption or MONEYVAL that deals with money laundering, they have a system of monitoring and then reporting. So GRECO or MONEYVAL monitor the all of the member states in accordance with their standards, they give recommendations and then the member states provides their report back to these instruments, for instance to MONEYVAL or to GRECO on what they have done to address these in accordance with the Council of Europe standards. The Venice Commission is a little bit different. They are based on the request on each member state, they provide opinions on different legislative acts, such as it could be changes to the constitution, or in Ukraine, it was related for instance to the High Anti-Corruption Court.

Popova: Do you know this situation with education law, and the situation between Ukraine and Hungary about the education law? What was the final decision of the Venice Commission?

Enberg: The Venice Commission gave their opinion on the education law, where they had some recommendations regarding on the one hand, it’s hard to go into the all of the details, of course…

Popova: Do we need to change the education law or not?

Enberg: What is stated is that there is one article that was criticized that needs to be addressed, and this what Ukraine has replied to this is that they will address it in the secondary legislation, related to education. So this is what we are now working with, together with our Ukrainian partners.

Popova: So you are now working on it?

Enberg: Yes, We are working on it.

Popova: Thank you, Mr. Enberg, for joining our program. Thanks to all who watched us. See you next week.

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