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Leading #Ukraine lawyer Andrei Domansky faces raids from security services



A leading Ukraine lawyer who has tried to shine a light on abuses against journalists in his homeland has himself been targeted by the country’s security services.

The home and offices of Andrei Domansky were raided by the staff of the security service of Ukraine on 17 January during which files and highly sensitive case work were seized.

The raid at the two premises near Kiev came just over a month after he spoke out against attacks in Ukraine on the freedom of speech and the rights of journalists at an event at Brussels Press Club.

Andrei Domansky

Domansky, who also hosts a top rated TV and radio show in Ukraine, represents a number of journalists in Ukraine who have been detained or harassed for “doing nothing more” than carrying out their professional duty. He’s logged 200 such cases, 90 of them involving violence being used against journalists.

In a Q&A with EUReporter, he explains why such action should be a cause for real concern, not just in Ukraine but for the EU.

Q: Describe what happened at your home in connection with the investigation.

A: Early one morning, knowing that I was on a business trip, the staff of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, together with the staff of the Security Service of Ukraine, began searches at my home as well as my assistant's apartment. During the search, several documents were seized. This search in my home was a gross violation of the law. I am very grateful to my colleagues, lawyers and journalists for their support, especially the Lawyers Protection Committee of the Council of Advocates of the Kiev region.

2) What is the reason for the investigation? How do you explain what is happening?

The searches that took place are instruments of pressure on me as a lawyer and human rights activist.

3) Were these events related to the fact that you are protecting the rights of journalists?

Yes. As a lawyer, I have represented the interests of witnesses in criminal cases including that of Kirill Vyshinsky (who  has been held in pre-trial detention since his arrest in Kiev by the Security Service of Ukraine in May).
After repeated interrogations things seemed to have subsided. But after my visit to Brussels (December 10, 2018) and Washington (December 12-13), where I discussed the issues of protecting the rights of journalists and raised with our foreign colleagues the problems in Ukraine and persecution of journalists, the Ukraine Deputy Prosecutor General on 20 December filed a petition to the Pechersk District Court of Kiev to conduct searches. On January 17 these searches were carried out.

The General Prosecutor’s Office does not hide the fact that the matter is connected with my work to protect the rights of journalists and the politically persecuted in Ukraine.

4) Are you threatened or intimidated?

Threats are constantly coming and this is one of the risks of my work. But if you are afraid, then you need to stop such activities. Ukraine is a legal state and I exercise my protection within the framework of the law and my oath as a lawyer.

5) What is your opinion on the protection of the rights of journalists and their lawyers?
Ukraine has one of the best constitutions and good laws have been adopted. Guarantees against violations of the rights of journalists and lawyers are fixed. But what’s at issue is their implementation and the authorities' desire to fulfil their duties to protect the rights of journalists and lawyers. This is the problem. Little wonder that the number of “prisoners of conscience” and lawsuits to the European Court of Human Rights are growing.

6) How can the international community help improve the situation?

First, don’t be indifferent to the violations of the professional rights of journalists and lawyers but react to them. Without public interest and attention from the international community, we cannot eliminate these violations and there’s a strong possibility they will be repeated in the future. Clearly, we still need to learn a lot to improve democracy and the rule of law in Ukraine, in particular, learn respect for a different opinion and the right to freedom of speech. This applies not only to journalists and lawyers but also LGBT people.

7) Has the situation with the protection of the rights of journalists improved or worsened over the past three years?

There are guarantees in law to protect the rights of journalists but, unfortunately, there’s unwillingness to respect these. Unfortunately, reporters do not have the unity in their profession to stop such pressures.

The most vulnerable are journalists who carry out investigative work, especially to root out corruption. They are persecuted by the authorities and receive threats to their health and lives.

Unfortunately, we forget that the right to information is guaranteed both by the Ukraine constitution and international treaties which Ukraine is party to.

Pursuing journalists and harassing them is a violation of their rights.

8) Is there any hope for improvement after the elections of this year?

I hope that the issues of freedom of speech and protection of journalists and lawyers – indeed, anyone - does not depend just on the elections.

I stress that Ukraine is a legal, democratic, European state.

The people of Ukraine are freedom loving and have always been famous for their desire for freedom.
Our ancestors fought for freedom” and freedom features in our national anthem.

Therefore, I do not just have hope but confidence that there will be improvements. The main thing is that such rights should not be violated and, if there are such violations, they must be stopped and punished with the utmost severity.

9) Are there any other observations or comments you would like to add?

The unwillingness of the authorities to exercise Kirill Vyshinsky’s rights and his access to justice is one other violation. But Ukraine citizens have the right to exercise their rights by applying to the European Court of Human Rights and ECHR rulings are binding.


EU prepares for budget impasse and an inventive workaround on Next Generation EU 



A senior European Commission official outlined the measures the EU would need to take should the EU fail to reach an agreement on the multi-annual 2021 - 2027 budget (MFF) and recovery package next week. 

The deal on the budget and the New Generation EU package was agreed after several days of negotiations in the summer. However, Poland and Hungary are threatening to veto the deal because of the agreement the German Presidency has reached with the European Parliament on rule of law conditionality.  

Time is running out and in order for the budget to be operational on 1 January, there would need to be an agreement between the Parliament and Council by Monday (7 December) on the budget for the first year of the seven-year budget, this would also require the agreement of heads of government at next week’s European Council (10-11 December) to the full budget package. In this scenario, it would then be rubber-stamped in a further conciliation (11 December) and placed before the European Parliament’s plenary (14-17 December) to be signed off.

The budget, but not as we know it

If the heads of government fail to reach an agreement next week it will automatically trigger the“provisional twelfths” (Article 315 TFEU) approach, which was last used in 1988. It is a mechanism that guarantees some degree of continuity and will be based on the current MFF. As the legal basis for some programmes expires at the end of the year, those programmes will not receive any further payment commitments. This includes major funding programmes, such as Cohesion Policy, the European research programme (Horizon Europe) and many more. It does not include pillar 1 of the Common Agricultural Policy, humanitarian aid and the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Rebates will also vanish as there won’t be a replacement decision on own resources in this scenario. 

The new annual budget would also have to take into account that the EU’s overall funds will be lower due to the failure to reach an agreement on own resources and lower GNI caused by the pandemic and Brexit. This could amount to as much as 25 to 30 billion euro.

Next Generation EU

Next Generation EU, which is discrete from and additional to the multi-annual budget, could be agreed upon by different means. The senior official ruled out the use of an inter-governmental conference and separate treaty as it would take too much time and would place the debt burden on individual states, rather than allowing the EU to hold the debt in its name. However, the Commission does think that a “Community-based solution” allowed under the current treaties would be possible. This could allow enhanced cooperation between a coalition of the willing, and would need a clear link to the EU’s treaties, for example, it could be allowed through the possibility in the treaty of channeling financial assistance to member states experiencing severe difficulties, caused by exceptional occurrences (Article 122), but the senior official eluded to other options.

The possibility of circumventing some of the damage caused by Poland, Hungary and possibly Slovenia’s veto could help to focus minds as an important week approaches.

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Digital economy

New EU rules: Digitalisation to improve access to justice



Cross-border videoconferencing and safer and easier document exchange: learn how new EU rules for digitalising justice will benefit people and firms. On 23 November, Parliament adopted two proposals aimed at modernizing justice systems in the EU, which will help to decrease delays, increase legal certainty and make access to justice cheaper and easier.

New regulations will implement several digital solutions for cross-border taking of evidence and service of documents with the aim of making cooperation between national courts in different EU countries more efficient.

Endorsing distance communication technologies will lower costs and help evidence to be taken quicker. For example, to hear a person in a cross-border proceeding, videoconferencing can be used instead of requiring a physical presence.

A decentralized IT system that brings together national systems will be established so that documents can be exchanged electronically in a faster and more secure way. The new rules include additional provisions to protect data and privacy when documents are transmitted and evidence is being taken.

The regulations help simplify procedures and offer legal certainty to people and businesses, which will encourage them to engage in international transactions, thereby not only strengthening democracy but also the EU's  internal market.

The two proposals update existing EU regulations on service of documents and taking of evidence to ensure they make the mosrt of modern digital solutions.

They are part of the EU's efforts to help digitise justice systems. While in some countries, digital solutions have already proved effective, cross-border judicial proceedings still take place mostly on paper. EU aims to improve cooperation at EU level to help people and businesses and preserve the ability of law enforcement to protect people effectively.

The COVID-19 crisis has created many problems for the judicial system: there have been delays of in-person hearings and of cross-border serving of judicial documents; inabilities to obtain in-person legal aid; and the expiry of deadlines due to delays. At the same time, the rising number of insolvency cases and layoffs due to the pandemic make the courts’ work even more critical.

The proposals enter into force 20 days following their publication in the EU's official journal.

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Coronavirus: Commission presents 'Staying safe from COVID-19 during winter' strategy



Today (2 December), the Commission adopted a strategy for a sustainably managing the pandemic over the coming winter months, a period that can bring a risk of increased transmission of the virus owing to specific circumstances such as indoor gatherings. The strategy recommends continued vigilance and caution throughout the winter period and into 2021 when the roll out of safe and effective vaccines will occur.

The Commission will then provide further guidance on a gradual and coordinated lifting of containment measures. A coordinated EU wide approach is key to provide clarity to people and avoid a resurgence of the virus linked to the end of year holidays. Any relaxation of measures should take into account the evolution of the epidemiological situation and sufficient capacity for testing, contact tracing and treating patients.

Promoting the European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas said: “In these extremely difficult times, guidance to Member States to promote a common approach to the winter season and in particular on how to manage the end of the year period, is of vital importance. We need to curtail future outbreaks of infection in the EU. It is only through such a sustained management of the pandemic, that we will avoid new lockdowns and severe restrictions and overcome together.”

Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “Every 17 seconds a person loses their life due to COVID-19 in Europe. The situation may be stabilizing, but it remains delicate. Like everything else this year, end of the year festivities will be different. We cannot jeopardise the efforts made by us all in the recent weeks and months. This year, saving lives must come before celebrations. But with vaccines on the horizon, there is also hope. All member states must now be ready to start vaccination campaigns and roll-out vaccines as quickly as possible once a safe and effective vaccine is available.”

Recommended control measures

The staying safe from COVID-19 during winter strategy recommends measures to keep the pandemic under control until vaccines are widely available.

It focuses on:

Physical distancing and limiting social contacts, key for the winter months including the holiday period. Measures should be targeted and based on the local epidemiological situation to limit their social and economic impact and increase their acceptance by people.

Testing and contact tracing, essential for detecting clusters and breaking transmission. Most member states now have national contact tracing apps. The European Federated Gateway Server (EFGS) enables cross-border tracing.

Safe travel, with a possible increase in travel over the end-of-year holidays requiring a coordinated approach. Transport infrastructure must be prepared and quarantine requirements, which may take place when the epidemiological situation in the region of origin is worse than the destination, clearly communicated.

Healthcare capacity and personnel: Business continuity plans for healthcare settings should be put in place to make sure COVID-19 outbreaks can be managed, and access to other treatments maintained. Joint procurement can address shortages of medical equipment. Pandemic fatigue and mental health are natural responses to the current situation. Member states should follow the World Health Organisation European Region's guidance on reinvigorating public support to address pandemic fatigue. Psychosocial support should be stepped up too.

National vaccination strategies.

The Commission stands ready to support member states where necessary in the deployment of vaccines as per their deployment and vaccination plans. A common EU approach to vaccination certificates is likely to reinforce the public health response in Member States and the trust of citizens in the vaccination effort.


Today's strategy builds on previous recommendations such as the April European road map on the careful phasing out of containment measures, the July Communication on short-term preparedness and the October Communication on additional COVID-19 response measures. The first wave of the pandemic in Europe was successfully contained through strict measures, but relaxing them too fast over the summer led to a resurgence in autumn.

As long as a safe and effective vaccine is not available and a large part of the population not immunised, EU member Sstates must continue their efforts to mitigate the pandemic by following a coordinated approach as called for by the European Council.

Further recommendations will be presented in early 2021, to design a comprehensive COVID-19 control framework based on the knowledge and experience so far and the latest available scientific guidelines.

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