Important Draft Laws. Issue 11: New Attempts to Reform the Economic Security Bureau and Inclusive Intercity Transport

Important Draft Laws. Issue 11: New Attempts to Reform the Economic Security Bureau and Inclusive Intercity Transport

Photo: pexels.com / Ольга Макарова
23 February 2024
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A review of draft laws registered from February 5 to 18, 2024.

During this period, 35 bills were registered: two presidential (extension of martial law and mobilization), two governmental, and 31 from people’s deputies. In continuation of the topics raised in the previous Review, alternative initiatives for reforming the Economic Security Bureau (ESB) and introducing multiple citizenship in Ukraine were registered in Parliament during the two weeks. Further, we will provide details on these and other initiatives.

Reforming the Economic Security Bureau

In the previous issue, we wrote about government draft laws No. 10439 and No. 10440, which propose changing the procedure for selecting the head of the ESB and stipulate that only the ESB and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) can conduct inspections of enterprises. Alongside these projects, MPs submitted six alternative ones, which envisage different principles for forming the competition commission for selecting the bureau’s leader, personnel policies, and the powers of the body.

If the bill registered at the end of January proposes including in the commission three persons designated by the Cabinet of Ministers and three by international organizations providing technical assistance to Ukraine in the fight against corruption, then the “fresh” draft 10439-1 proposes for the first time to elect the head of the ESB in the same way, and subsequently to form the commission without involving external players: three members from the Cabinet of Ministers, and another three from the Ukrainian business community (chambers of commerce, employers’ associations, professional and entrepreneurial unions, etc.). The same draft law proposes a different mechanism for certifying ESB employees. It would be carried out immediately after the appointment of the ESB director and not a year after the end of martial law, as envisaged by the main project). Certification would be carried out by personnel commission of 6 members, three appointed by international organizations. All ESB employees undergo certification (not just those appointed before the Law comes into force), with certification taking place within a clearly defined term, namely a year (the main project does not specify its term). 

Another new draft law, 10439-2, also concerns the composition of the competition commission for the election of the bureau’s director (three persons from the Cabinet of Ministers and four from international organizations). Within 18 months, current ESB employees will be required to undergo certification, which will be carried out by a certification commission of 5 members, three of whom are delegated by international organizations. By the way, the European Business Association supports adopting this particular project, which, in their opinion, can effectively reform the ESB, ensuring the creation of a transparent and independent body.

Draft laws 10440-1, 10440-2, 10440-3, and 10440-4, registered during the two weeks, offer an alternative to other aspects of the government’s draft law on the ESB (the jurisdiction of cases and new powers of the bureau during searches). Among the proposals are bans on prosecutors and judges transferring cases from the ESB to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), and the National Police and initiating judicial proceedings at the request of other authorities in cases under the jurisdiction of the ESB. This is done to avoid duplicating investigation processes and not undermine the ESB’s work at the final stages of case consideration. 

These projects also propose methods to protect suspects from potential abuses by bureau employees. For instance, lawmakers suggest mandatory recording through audio and video of the destruction of material evidence and establishing that evidence obtained from illegally seized computers, databases, and software is deemed inadmissible. Additionally, suspects’ property may be under arrest for no more than 60 days, and money cannot be seized.

Therefore, the differences between alternative draft laws and the main one lie in the method of forming the competition commission for selecting the ESB director, the procedure for certifying bureau employees, its interaction with other law enforcement agencies and the protection of the rights of suspects. We hope the final adopted draft law will incorporate the best proposals from the alternatives. 

Acquisition and termination of Ukrainian citizenship 

The initiative of the President of Ukraine regarding multiple (dual) citizenship prompted people’s deputies to submit alternative draft laws 10425-1 and 10425-2. The authors of the first project believe that the presidential initiative requires amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine. Therefore, the project proposes to obligate the Cabinet of Ministers to develop appropriate constitutional changes and submit them for consideration by Parliament.

The main difference between project 10425-2 and the main one is the simplified procedure for obtaining Ukrainian citizenship by citizens of those countries that have signed international agreements with Ukraine on this matter. In other words, the conditions for obtaining dual citizenship and how it will function will be determined by a separate agreement with each country. The main project, described in the previous issue, envisages the government forming a “white list” of countries whose citizens will have the right to a simplified procedure for obtaining Ukrainian citizenship. 

Another difference between the alternative draft law and the previously registered one is the additional condition for losing citizenship — the refusal of Ukraine’s “new” citizens to undergo military registration. Additionally, this project entails an obligation for individuals with dual citizenship to pay military fees regardless of their tax residency.

Furthermore, the new draft law entails restrictions on land ownership rights. Individuals who acquire Ukrainian citizenship through a simplified procedure are not entitled to receive ownership of agricultural land plots within three years of obtaining citizenship. 

Social protection

An attempt to increase motivation for military service

Bill No. 11012 aims to create mechanisms to incentivize enlistment and service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Among the key provisions of the bill are: 

  • Financial incentives and social guarantees. The project envisages a one-time financial aid for service members who sign or extend a contract for a term of 3 years or until the end of martial law: UAH 120,000 for soldiers, UAH 160,000 for sergeants and non-commissioned officers, and UAH 200,000 for officers. Suppose a service member is eligible for discharge from military service (e.g., due to family circumstances or health condition) but chooses to continue serving. In that case, they will receive an additional monthly bonus of UAH 10,000.

Additionally, the MPs propose increasing payments for destroying and capturing enemy equipment. Specifically, for a destroyed tank, self-propelled artillery unit (SPAU), or multiple rocket launcher system (MRLS), payments will range from UAH 200,000 to UAH 370,000 (currently, the reward for MRLS is UAH 60,900, and for a tank or SPAU, it’s UAH 48,700).

The bill also establishes the right to preferential loans for starting a business (at 5%) and mortgage loans for housing (3% for the entire loan term up to 20 years) for service members who have served for at least three years (with a minimum of one-year performing combat orders and directives), as well as for the wounded who continue to serve or are eligible for discharge. 

 Another proposal from the deputies is lifelong life and health insurance funded by the state budget for service members who have served for at least three years (with a year in combat positions) or were discharged earlier due to injury or captivity. The same benefit may be claimed by family members of these soldiers and deceased defenders of the homeland.

Moreover, there is a plan to increase pension benefits for military personnel with disabilities acquired during participation in hostilities. The pension amount should be 60–100% (depending on the disability group) of the monetary compensation (earnings), but not less than UAH 15,000. The bill proposes to establish the following minimum pension amounts: for individuals with disabilities of Group I – UAH 25,000, Group II — UAH 20,000, Group III — UAH 15,600 (currently, the minimum pension amounts for disabled veterans are Group I — 650% of the subsistence minimum for non-working persons, i.e., UAH 15,346, Group II — UAH 12,395 UAH, Group III — UAH 8,500). 

  • Education and control: The bill includes a mandatory three-month course of basic military training for conscripts who have not previously served in the military and the establishment of mechanisms to control the quality of training. In particular, additional disciplinary responsibility for instructors and heads of training centers for inadequate preparation of defenders will be introduced.

According to the MPs’ calculations, implementing the bill will require an additional annual expenditure of UAH 70-80 billion from the state budget.

Exemption from taxation of charitable assistance to servicemembers

Bill No. 11011 proposes to exempt charitable aid provided for the benefit of service members from taxation, even if they have not yet obtained the combatant status or are in the process of receiving it. Such charitable assistance is subject to personal income tax (18%) and military duty (1.5% of charitable aid).

Arrested sanatoriums for the rehabilitation of Ukrainian soldiers

Bill No. 11009 allows the Asset Recovery and Management Agency of Ukraine (ARMA) to transfer sanatoriums, hotels, and sports facilities for IDPs and the rehabilitation of military personnel through a simplified procedure without assessment of value and competition. Similarly, such property can be transferred for tasks related to the defense of sovereignty and enhancement of the state’s defense capabilities. After the transfer, government authorities and state-owned enterprises will manage the property.

Accessibility of transportation for people with disabilities

Parliamentarians propose (Bill No. 11002) that buses on urban, suburban, and intercity routes be adapted to transport persons with disabilities and other mobility-restricted groups of the population (pregnant women, children, older adults, people with musculoskeletal disorders, etc.). The bill introduces a new requirement for carriers participating in route competitions to achieve this. They must ensure at least 50% (from 2025 onwards, at least 70%) inclusive buses (minibusses) on urban routes, 30% on suburban routes, and 25% on intercity routes. However, while setting requirements for the share of equipped vehicles, the bill’s authors specifically mention buses, “forgetting” about other types of transportation, such as trolleybuses, trams, and trains.

Compensation for damaged vehicles

Owners of vehicles damaged or destroyed as a result of Russia’s armed aggression may be eligible for compensation. Currently, owners of such vehicles can file a lawsuit to obtain compensation. Still, the mechanism for compensation itself still needs to be developed. The new bill (11001) proposes to make such payments from the funds of the aggressor state and those received from international funds for the restoration of Ukraine. This bill does not establish the details and mechanism of payments; if adopted, the government will be responsible for developing them.

Enhancing social protection for children and their parents

MPs propose expanding social benefits (such as using suburban railway and water transport, buses on suburban and intercity routes), which are currently only available to children from large families, to include their parents, children from foster families, foster parents, and residents of family-type children’s homes. The project also suggests allowing these categories of individuals to use intercity (currently only suburban) railway and water transport for free.

Like any introduction of benefits for a broad group of people, this bill will make social support less targeted (as not everyone needs discounted tickets). To support large families and families with adopted or foster children better, it would be preferable to provide them with social services (such as municipal childcare, legal support, etc.) or additional payments that they could use for their most urgent needs. An example could be the “Baby Package” program, where families can choose between receiving a box of items or its monetary equivalent. Such an approach would also allow for the evaluation of the cost of the support provided to the state and local budgets. 

Main principles of veteran support policy 

Bill No. 11007 proposes to define in Ukrainian legislation the principles of support for war veterans, their family members, and participants affected during the Revolution of Dignity. This is a framework law intended to consolidate all further regulations related to veteran policy into a single framework. In addition to general statements about the need to “ensure the proper realization of medical, educational, labor, economic, cultural, and social rights of war veterans and their families,” the law includes more clearly delineated directions for veteran policy. For example, it envisages “creating an effective system for transitioning from military service to civilian life” and “establishing a unified state electronic system for caring for war veterans.” It’s good that the prioritization of objectives in veteran policy is being unified, albeit with considerable delay.

The new procedure for employing foreigners

A bill has been registered in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine proposing to abolish work permits for foreigners and stateless persons (meaning such individuals will be able to work without permits). The law envisages that permits already issued will remain valid until their expiry. To obtain a residence permit, foreigners and stateless persons must submit a labor (employment) contract to the migration service.

Lease of defense lands

Bill No. 11008 grants the Ministry of Defense, Armed Forces, and military formations the right to lease out defense lands, which they own, for agricultural purposes, thereby generating additional income. The maximum lease term for defense lands will be three years (compared to up to 50 years for other lands). The bill also prohibits leasing defense lands to foreign states, individuals, or organizations and prohibits subleasing.

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