On 17 May 2012 the Ukrainian Parliament adopted the law of Ukraine on Rules of Ethical Conduct (the "Ethical Conduct Law") which introduces the body of rules of conduct applicable to individuals performing public functions on behalf of the state or a local authority, including the President of Ukraine and the Prime Minister of Ukraine, ministers, members of the Ukrainian Parliament and local councils, civil servants, judges and other state officials (the "Officials").

The essence of the Officials' "ethical conduct" boils down to their adherence to ten key principles, as specified by the Ethical Conduct Law:

  • legality;
  • political neutrality;
  • tolerance;
  • acting exclusively in the public interests;
  • objectivity;
  • confidentiality;
  • competence;
  • promotion of the public's trust in the state and local authorities;
  • obligation to challenge and refuse compliance with any unlawful decisions or assignments;
  • conflict of interest avoidance.

The Ethical Conduct Law provides some guidance on how these principles are to be interpreted and applied. Thus, for example, being politically neutral means that Officials must avoid any demonstration of their political views and refrain from using their authority in the interest of political parties. Individuals holding political or elective positions, such as ministers or members of the Ukrainian Parliament, are of course exempt from this.

Being tolerant involves respecting the political, ideological and religious views of others.

With respect to unlawful decisions or assignments, the Ethical Conduct Law says that the Officials should not implement decisions or perform assignments received by their supervisory bodies, if such decisions or assignments are contrary to the law or pose a threat to the interests of citizens, society or the state. If an Official is faced with a decision or an assignment which he/she considers to be unlawful, such Official must immediately report this in writing to the head of the applicable public body.

It is important to note that the Ethical Conduct Law does not address the gaps and drawbacks in the anti-corruption law introduced last year (see our Law-Now article of 18 April 2011 Full text). In particular, the Ethical Conduct Law includes certain provisions preventing Officials from receiving illegal benefits or gifts, but it does not provide a definition of what would amount to a gift or donation in the context of the anticorruption legislation.

The Ethical Conduct Law seems therefore to be more a public statement of principle, than an effective tool to regulate the professional conduct of state officials and to prevent corruption activities. However, it should still be recognised as a positive step towards the improvement of anticorruption legislation in Ukraine.

The Ethical Conduct Law has already been signed by the Ukrainian President and is scheduled to take effect on 13 July 2012.

Further reading: the law of Ukraine on Rules of Ethical Conduct № 4722-VI, dated 17 May 2012.

This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to www.law-now.com/law-now/mondaq

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The original publication date for this article was 09/07/2012.