Ukrainian Think Tanks Liaison Office in Brussels

On February 7, 2019, the Verkhovna Rada voted for amending the Constitution of Ukraine (regarding the strategic course of the state on acquiring full-fledged membership of Ukraine in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization). The purpose of the proposed amendments, as stated in the Explanatory Note, is the legislative consolidation in the Constitution of Ukraine of a civilizational choice, the European identity of the Ukrainian people and the irreversibility of the strategic course of the state towards Ukraine’s full membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

This draft law was introduced by the President of Ukraine on September 3, 2018. On September 20, 2018, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine addressed the Constitutional Court of Ukraine with a request for an opinion on the compliance of the draft law on amending the Constitution of Ukraine (regarding the strategic course of the state on acquiring full-fledged membership of Ukraine in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) with the requirements of Articles 157 and 158 of the Constitution of Ukraine. Introducing changes to the Constitution of Ukraine requires mandatory preliminary constitutional control by the Constitutional Court. On November 22, 2018, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine issued a positive Opinion on the compliance of the proposed amendments with the constitutional procedure as well as the absence of abolition or restriction of human rights and freedoms. It established that the proposed amendments are not aimed at the elimination of Ukraine’s independence and violations of the territorial integrity of the country. On the same day, the Parliament voted for these amendments (for the first time, as stipulated by the constitutional procedure), and already on February 7, 2019, the Verkhovna Rada held the second voting for such amendments and changed the Constitution of Ukraine accordingly.

Constitutional amendments came into force on February 21, 2019, the day after their official publication.

What has changed?

Principal amendments to the Constitution concerned the Preamble and the powers of the Verkhovna Rada, the President and the Cabinet of Ministers. Thus, the Preamble of the Constitution in the context of Euro-Atlantic integration should have the following wording: “The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on behalf of the Ukrainian people – … with a view of strengthening of civil accord in the land of Ukraine, and confirming the European identity of the Ukrainian people and the irreversibility of the European and Euro-Atlantic course of Ukraine … adopts this Constitution as the Basic Law of Ukraine.”

The new power of the Verkhovna Rada has been added: “Definition of the principles of internal and foreign policy, implementation of the strategic course of the state on acquiring full-fledged membership of Ukraine in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization” and new powers of the Cabinet of Ministers: “ensures implementation of the strategic course of the state on gaining full membership of Ukraine in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization”. In accordance with the adopted amendments, the President of Ukraine became the guarantor of the implementation of the strategic course of the state on acquiring Ukraine’s full membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Additionally, the provisions of paragraph 14 of the Transitional Provisions, which stipulate the use of existing military bases on the territory of Ukraine for the temporary stay of foreign military formations under the lease terms in accordance with international agreements, have been eliminated from the Constitution of Ukraine.

So today, the European and Euro-Atlantic courses of Ukraine are incorporated at the level of the Constitution and become mandatory for the authorities.

Starting from now, mandatory amendments to the Constitution will be necessary in order to change the Euro-Atlantic state course of Ukraine, since the higher authorities are limited by constitutional powers that directly established the European and Euro-Atlantic courses of Ukraine. It should be reminded that this year Ukraine is having both presidential and parliamentary elections.

Actual effect of the new European integration provisions depends on the legal activities of public authorities. Therefore, the practice will show how the new powers will be exercised and how the European and Euro-Atlantic courses of Ukraine will be implemented.

Author: Julia Kyrychenko, Head of Constitutional Law Projects, Centre of Policy and Legal Reform

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