The Council of Europe Action Plans for Ukraine (hereinafter referred to as Action Plans), being implemented since 2005, are strategic programming documents aimed at supporting Ukraine in meeting its obligations as a Council of Europe Member State and facilitating the implementation of the Association Agreement with the European Union. They include, in particular, projects to support efforts on bringing legislation, institutions and practices further into line with the best European standards in the areas of human rights, the rule of law and democracy.
The strategic areas of Ukraine’s cooperation with the Council of Europe in the framework of the implementation of the Action Plans are as following:
- strengthening the protection of human rights and improving the enforcement of judgments, especially those dealing with priority issues identified by the monitoring bodies of the Council of Europe and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights;
- promotion of the rule of law, development and strengthening of democratic institutions and procedures at the national, regional and local levels;
- promoting the culture of democracy, developing social cohesion, tolerance and strengthening the participation of key social and public actors in decision-making.
On 21 February 2018, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe approved the Action Plan for Ukraine for 2018-2021 with a budget of €29,5 million (previous Action Plans covered periods with such budgets: 2005-2008 - €17,3 million, 2008-2011 - €25 million, 2011-2014 - €23,9 million, 2015 -2017 - €45 million).
The implementation of the Action Plans is subject to periodic joint monitoring performed by the Council of Europe and the Ukrainian authorities in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the approved projects` implementation and to include in the Action Plan other projects by agreement of all stakeholders.
On 6 February 2020, the Steering Committee of the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine 2018-2021 met in Kyiv. Representatives of the Council of Europe and relevant Ukrainian authorities discussed key achievements and proposals for further implementation of the projects in Ukraine. According to the results of the first phase of the Action Plan implementation, the following priority areas were identified:
- further implementation of European human rights standards in Ukraine, particularly by ensuring effective functioning of the Ombudsperson`s Office;
- protection of the rights of internally displaced persons, including the rights to adequate housing and access to justice, as well as of national minorities rights, in particular those of Roma;
- supporting criminal justice by completing the prosecution reform and improving the free legal aid mechanism; ensuring the independence and credibility of justice in Ukraine; functioning of a new network of the courts of appeal; establishment of the Judicial Protection Service as a state body in the justice system; introduction of a Unified Court Information and Communication System; completion of the selection and appointment of judges of the High anti-corruption court and ensuring its functioning;
- more active implementation of anti-corruption projects;
- comprehensive and coordinated policy on prevention of violence against women and domestic violence; institutional development of agencies for providing assistance to victims of such violence;
- implementation of the European standards into the Ukrainian media environment, protection of the professional activity of journalists and promotion of media literacy among young people;
- protection of social rights, in particular in the context of implementation of Ukraine's obligations under the European Social Charter, as well as children's rights;
- supporting education on democratic culture.
On 1 July 2020, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided to extend the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine 2018-2021 until the end of 2022 to ensure the achievement of all the objectives defined in this document.
The revised budget for the extended Action Plan amounted to €36,5 million, 96% of which has already been allocated as of 16 May 2022. The largest donors of the revised budget (as of 16 May 2022) are following: Norway - €6,66 million, Sweden - €5,68 million, the European Union - €5,54 million, Finland – €3,57 million, Canada - €3,38 million, Germany - €3 million, Human Rights Trust Fund (Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom) - €1,95 million, Switzerland - €1,8 million, Denmark - €0,5 million + €1,13 million for ongoing projects from the previous Action Plan for Ukraine 2015-2017). Other donors, which have allocated about €0,5 million and below, are the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, Hungary, the Czech Republic, France, Liechtenstein, Poland, Lithuania, Turkey, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Romania as well as the Fund to end violence against children (EVAC).
In response to the military aggression of the russian federation against Ukraine, taking into account its consequences and emerging realities, the Council of Europe, in cooperation with the Ukrainian authorities, drafted the Priority adjustments to the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine 2018-2022. This document proposes to focus attention to a limited number of priority areas, where they can have immediate effect, based on the Council of Europe experience and expertise.
The Council of Europe activities, being carefully coordinated with other partners and stakeholders, will be directed to the top priorities:
1) minimizing the negative consequences of the russian aggression, especially for displaced persons and those most vulnerable; protection of the rights of the child and combatting violence against women in Ukraine as well as in displacement;
2) ensuring accountability for war crimes, violations caused by the war and facilitating gathering relevant information;
3) supporting the judiciary, media and good governance in time of war.
The Priority adjustments to the Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine 2018-2022 have been approved by the Government of Ukraine and the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. Their implementation is well under way.
At the same time, the secretariat of the Council of Europe has started drafting a new Council of Europe Action Plan for Ukraine for the period since 2023.