As Ukraine’s parliament tightens laws to prevent protests, the target is not just opposition activists, journalists and European-minded organizations. DW’s Bernd Johann thinks the laws level a shot directly at the EU.
There are still committed and brave people in Ukraine who are striving toward democracy, the rule of law and a European perspective for their country. But that could change soon. In nothing short of a hold-up that ignored all the country’s current democratic standards, the government majority has rushed an extensive legislative package through parliament: it will transform Ukraine into an authoritarian nation in the image of its Russian or Belarusian counterpart, and will rob people of their hope for political change.
An attack on civil liberties
The Ukrainian parliament wants to significantly curtail the rights of the people, of social organizations and of the media. Drastic punishments await those who go against the bans on demonstrating. It’s clear who those new laws are targeting: it’s the people who have been protesting for two months on Kyiv’s central square, the Maidan, for democratic change and better living conditions in their country. They have continued despite court bans and police brutality.
Alleged defamation in the media, online and in social networks will also be punishable under the new laws. Here, too, it’s clear who the target is: journalists and online activists who are critical of the government. The political leadership wants them to know that they can expect prosecution if they criticize politicians or state officials in the future.
But it’s not only opposition activists and journalists who are threatened by the laws. The laws are directed at the whole of Ukrainian civil society. And they are also directed at the European Union. They concern anyone who is committed to Europe and to the EU. Just as the equivalent laws dictated in Russia, Ukrainian non-governmental organizations could also soon be labeled “foreign agents,” if they receive any funding for social projects from abroad. Such legislation would particularly harm organizations which are cooperating with the EU and its member states – including Germany – within the framework of the EU Eastern Partnership.[Full article]