During the visit of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to Ukraine - despite the fact that the United States did not hide its surprise at the government's destruction of corporate reform - there was room for applause. Kyiv heard them about the reform of the Security Service of Ukraine.
Even publicly, at a press conference, Blinken emphasized this area to support Zelensky's words that Ukraine is still moving forward on the path of reform. "We discussed the work that the Council has done to reform the SBU, approving it in the first reading. As the President said, (there are still significant challenges in the reforms), but there is also significant progress," the US Secretary of State explained. ).
And it's not just American opinion. Numerous EuroPravda sources in the capitals of other NATO member states have previously also stressed that this reform is now the most important thing for bringing Ukraine closer to Alliance standards.
It seems that they heard this call on Bankova as well. From there, there are assurances - both in public and in private talks with Western partners - that the reform will be approved. A positive signal was heard at the meeting between Zelensky and Blinken, said one of the EP sources. "I have never been so optimistic as now," said another interlocutor.
But the very fact of approving the law is not enough.
The question remains whether its content will meet the expectations of the partners and the standards of the Alliance.
After all, the draft approved in the first reading received many comments (read the article "Special Service without Borders and Control"), and the need for its completion was recognized even by the authors from the faction "Servant of the People".
In addition, according to European Truth, there is considerable opposition to the adoption of the law on the SBU in its current concept (for more details, see the article "The SBU and NATO disagree on the vision of intelligence reform").
The coming weeks will be key to this reform, promises Mariana Bezugla, who is in charge of the reform in the CH. On May 17, she promises to publish the bill, which after the final adjustments will go to a vote in the session hall.
Meanwhile, European Truth has a non-public document authored by the International Advisory Group (IAG), an informal body made up of experts from NATO, the EU Advisory Mission (EUAM) and the United States, which analyzes ideas and bills at the request of the Ukrainian authorities. concerning the reform of the SBU.
That was supported by partners
The advice is not final, several EP sources have said, as the document was being prepared several months ago, when the MDG did not yet have a final version of the bill finalized by the committee. In essence, this is an analysis of the bill passed in the first reading.
However, the document demonstrates the main directions of changes in the SBU reform project, which will be strongly insisted on by NATO and other partners.
The document is divided into two blocks. In the first, the internationals listed the norms and approaches "that should be preserved and left unchanged."
First of all, the representatives of NATO, the EU and the United States insist on the reduction of the powers of the secret service in order to turn it from a classic law enforcement body, which is now the SBU, into a counterintelligence service. "The envisaged transfer of a significant part of the investigative powers by 2024 is one of the most important elements of the bill," the document says. At the same time, the right of other law enforcement agencies (police, DBR, etc.) to involve SBU operatives / special forces in investigative actions outside the Service's jurisdiction should be restricted.
This should minimize the chance of using the SBU to "nightmare" business, representatives of the Service, who are in favor of reforming it, explained to EuroPravda earlier.
Simultaneously with the reduction of powers, the SBU staff should be reduced. Western partners recommend that the Verkhovna Rada maintain plans to gradually reduce its staff from the current 31,000 to 17,000, with simultaneous demilitarization (conversion of most military posts to civilian ones). The latter should not apply to special forces such as the Alpha and military counterintelligence.
The role of the SBU in the fight against organized crime should be reduced, and these powers are transferred primarily to the National Police. The project proposes that in this area the role of the SBU will be to "coordinate activities and exchange information with other law enforcement agencies."
And the last area where internationals emphasize their support for the project from the first reading is "Progress in ensuring oversight (over the work of the SBU) by the Verkhovna Rada." It should be noted that in this area the positive comments in the document contradict the opinion of many experts, but the interlocutor of the EP in the International Advisory Group explained that he considers effective the mechanism provided by the law "On Intelligence", but the question remains whether timely and effective mechanisms provided in it.
And now - to the problems
There are three "positive" blocs in the joint NATO, EU and US councils and as many as seven that are based on criticism. Many of these comments, if taken into account, limit the SBU's almost limitless powers in some areas.
Here, the International Advisory Group supported human rights activists who criticized the project.
The bill passed in the first reading has problems with respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights, Ukraine's partners acknowledge.
"The authority to automatically access databases, block websites, revoke TV and radio licenses, and interfere in the electoral process goes beyond the powers of most Euro-Atlantic counterintelligence agencies and poses a problem given the potential violation of fundamental freedoms and human rights.
The right to enter private premises and public premises, regardless of the availability of a court decision, does not meet either the standards set by the European Convention on Human Rights or the leading Euro-Atlantic practice. The court's decision is a necessary component that will prevent the abuse of special powers by intelligence agencies, "the MDG council said.
Emergency powers to access financial data, online communication platforms, and to collect and store information about individuals and organizations, including without a court order, should also be limited.
The document has repeatedly returned to judicial oversight of the SBU, explaining that the Security Service is pushing for too much to do without any oversight, which is not acceptable by NATO standards.
A separate remark concerns the norm of the new project on "sending SBU officers to private and public institutions". This is a mechanism that makes it possible for the SBU to control almost any structure, as well as "use the Service as an instrument of political influence," according to internationals. It should be noted that the law prescribes this mechanism in very general terms. And although it contains a rule that the "infiltration" of seconded Sbushniks should take place in agreement with the management of the institution, MDG believes that there are no guarantees.
In two blocks of recommendations, the MDG advises to clarify the terminology, as well as the list of functions of the new SBU. And this is not a linguistic question - experts suspect that vague and vague terminology will allow employees of the Service to go beyond their authority.
Finally, there are comments on the security functions of the Security Service of Ukraine.
"Articles on coercive measures (physical force, special means and firearms) obviously provide the SBU with more opportunities than any other law enforcement agency in Ukraine and increase the possibility of violating the principle of proportionality. The International Advisory Group expects the right to use "Physical influence, special means and firearms will be limited and will be provided only to certain categories of SBU officers," said joint criticism from NATO, EU and US experts.
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Even from this description, it is clear that this is a reform with very serious consequences.
Moreover, the consequences may be both for Ukraine's relations with Western partners and for the balance of power within our state. That is why this reform must be followed very closely - and European Truth will continue to do so.
We also invite experts in this field to publish their assessment after the Council announces the final version of the reform of the Security Service of Ukraine.
Author Sergey Sidorenko,
editor of "European Truth"
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