In a decisive move on December 9, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine approved the second reading of Bill No. 5420, effectively criminalizing smuggling. The legislation, spearheaded by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and supported by 248 national deputies, marks a significant step in aligning Ukraine's laws with European Union standards.
Business Sector Inputs and Amendments
The bill, which is expected to be implemented by mid-2024, incorporates vital amendments suggested by the business sector. Notably, the thresholds for goods smuggling have been increased fivefold, while those for excisable goods have been doubled. This measure is seen as a balance between the need to crack down on smuggling and the need to protect legitimate business operations.
Addressing Concerns, Setting Boundaries
In response to concerns expressed by the business sector, the new legislation ensures that actions are classified as criminal only if they are intentional. It also imposes significant limitations on potential cases of responsibility for smuggling-related offenses. These offenses are now restricted to instances where documents containing false information have been submitted. However, these documents must be integral to the movement of goods, necessitate mandatory declaration under customs law, and influence the calculation of customs payments or compliance with non-tariff regulation measures.
EU Aid and Expectations
The adoption of this bill is a prerequisite for Ukraine to receive macro-financial assistance from the EU, amounting to 1.5 billion euros this year. The European Commission expects Ukraine to continue its anti-corruption reforms, enact laws to reboot the Bureau of Economic Security (BES) in the coming year, and criminalize smuggling. This legislation is therefore seen as a crucial step towards meeting these expectations and securing much-needed financial assistance.
While the text of the amended bill is not yet accessible on the parliament's website, its passage is seen as a landmark in Ukraine's ongoing efforts to align with EU legislation and combat corruption.