The Council of Europe Action Plans for Ukraine, being implemented since 2005, are strategic programming documents aimed at supporting Ukraine in fulfilling its obligations as a Member State of the Council of Europe and facilitating the implementation of the Association Agreement with the European Union. They include, in particular, projects to support efforts to bring legislation, institutions and practices in line with the best European human rights standards in the fields of human rights, the rule of law and democracy.
Strategic areas of cooperation between Ukraine and 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 supervisory authorities 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, increasing 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 and to include other agreed projects in the Action Plan.
In particular, on 4 February 2019, during the inter-agency meeting at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine on the Action Plan implementation representatives of legislative, executive and judicial authorities, as well as NGOs, positively evaluated the state of implementation of the Action Plan projects. They underlined positive developments in strengthening the implementation of human rights standards in Ukraine; protection of internally displaced persons (IDPs); reform of criminal justice; judicial reform; decentralization; media freedom and protection of journalists.
For its part, the Rapporteur Group on Democracy of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers at its meeting on 21 March 2019 noted the following positive developments in the implementation of the Action Plan: decentralisation reform; strengthening legislative and institutional frameworks for human rights protection, including the IDPs and Roma; establishment of a constitutional complaint mechanism to strengthen the rule of law; functioning of a full-fledged public broadcasting. At the same time, the Group pointed out the urgency of making additional efforts to ensure: effective implementation of the legislation; full functioning of reformed anti-corruption and anti-money laundering institutions; further strengthening of minority protection; effective promotion of language and social rights; completing the decentralisation reform at all levels; combating violence against women; full independence and accountability of the procuracy; improving enforcement of judgments, particularly those of the European Court of Human Rights.
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 the 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 and strengthening the National Preventive Mechanism for human rights protection during pre-trial investigations; prevention of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by law enforcement officers;
- protection of IDPs rights, including the right to adequate housing and access to justice, as well as national minorities rights, in particular those of Roma; awareness-raising campaigns on countering stereotypes against national minorities; publication of manuals on the best European practices on bilingual education;
- supporting criminal justice by completing the procuracy reform and improving the free legal aid mechanism; ensuring the independence and credibility of justice in Ukraine, the synergy of approaches and practices of disciplinary bodies within disciplinary proceedings against judges; functioning of a new network of 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;
- implementation of a comprehensive and coordinated policy on prevention of violence against women and domestic violence, including support of the relevant national coordinating body; institutional development of agencies and capacity building of professionals providing assistance to victims of domestic violence and violence against women, including free legal aid;
- 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 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 €38,2 million, 81% of which has already been allocated as of 31 April 2021. The largest donors of the revised budget as of 31 April 2021 are following: the European Union - €6 million, Sweden - €5,87 million, Norway - €5,84 million, Canada - €3,39 million, Germany - €2 million, Human Rights Trust Fund (UK, Luxemburg, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Switzerland) - €1,5 million, Switzerland - €1,33 million, Denmark - €1,13 million. Other donors, which have allocated about €0,5 million and below, are the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Poland, Turkey, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania as well as the Fund to end violence against children (EVAC).
In early September 2021, at the regular meeting of the Rapporteur Group on Democracy of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the CoE Secretariat will present to the delegations of the Member States an oral report on the progress in the implementation of the Action Plan for Ukraine.