Veto Crimea bill or shame Ukraine
Ukraine’s parliament has adopted a bizarrely inappropriate bill on creating a ‘free economic zone’ in the Crimea. If signed into law by President Petro Poroshenko it will seriously infringe the rights of Crimean Ukrainians and, by effectively recognizing Russian occupation, will cast serious doubts over Ukraine’s position on Crimea. Civic activists believe it imperative that the President uses his power of veto.
The draft law “On creating a creating a free economic zone for Crimea and on the specific features of economic activity on temporarily occupied Ukrainian territory” was passed in a higher irregular manner and with only one vote more than the minimum 226 required.
The following are only some of a range of concerns about the draft bill.
1. Activists warn that the very use of the term ‘free economic zone’ which is understood throughout the work as being a mechanism of incentives for attracting investment must arouse at very least bemusement. Such a position would be against a background of sanctions imposed by the EU, USA, Canada, Japan and others.
Ukraine’s own law on special or free economic zones [No. 2673-XII] makes it clear that such zones are created to attract investment; activate business activities, together with foreign investors, in order to develop export as well as to ensure the provision of high-standard products for the internal market.
2. The new law would officially remove Crimea from Ukrainian territory and would recognize the administrative border between the Kherson oblast and Crimea as the state border, both de facto and de jure.
The terms ‘import’ and ‘export’ are, for example, used for arrangements between Crimea under Russian annexation and the rest of Ukraine. Customs, border and other forms of control, as well as customs and tax fees, would be imposed for crossing between the Kherson oblast and Crimea. This is clearly usual for state borders, not for an administrative border within a country.
3. The draft bill defines businesses and individuals in Crimea as being ‘non-residents of Ukraine. Since this immediately significantly reduces their rights according to Ukrainian legislation, the draft bill is clearly discriminatory and would be a major blow to Ukrainians who are already in a vulnerable position for having refused to take Russian citizenship.
4. Article 14 on internally displaced persons [IDP] envisages social benefits etc. being received by far less people than were actually displaced. The UN estimates the real number of IDP to be from 12 to 16 thousand.
In such a way the bill is placing in question the degree to which Ukraine and Crimeans were harmed by the annexation. This in term will cast Ukraine in a very bad light given that the international community has recognized the seriousness of the consequences of the annexation.
It seems clear that fierce lobbying was carried out by certain MPs or others who have business interests in the Crimea which they don’t want to give up. In an appeal to the President, a number of civic organizations note that the draft bill was passed in its second and final reading on Aug 12. The speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov announced on Aug 14 that he had received complaints from MPs that the bill had been passed with irregularities. It was put to the vote early that day and received considerably less support than required. Yet only a few hours later exactly the same document was again put forward and passed.
The civic activists calling for the bill to be vetoed point out that according to reliable sources the draft bill that was voted on differed from that now posted on the Verkhovna Rada website.
The bill fails to provide any support for Ukrainian nationals remaining in the Crimea. At the same time it will prompt Ukrainian nationals to leave the Crimea and create the legal grounds for the peninsula to be recognized as a part of the Russian Federation.
There are simply no grounds for not vetoing such an obviously flawed draft law.