CHANGES TO THE CONSTITUTION OF UKRAINE: WILL IT CHANGE THE EU ATTITUDE TO UKRAINE?
In early September 2018, the text of president's bill to introduce amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution regarding the country's strategic course to obtain a full membership in the European Union and NATO has been published on the Verkhovna Rada's website. The bill proposes to consolidate in the preamble of the Basic Law Ukraine's irreversible course toward European and Euro-Atlantic integration and confirm European identity of the Ukrainian people.
Draft suggests defining that the powers of the Verkhovna Rada include determining the foundations of domestic and foreign policy, implementing the state's strategic course for obtaining full membership of Ukraine in the European Union and the NATO. It is also suggested to add to the Constitution that: ‘the President of Ukraine is the guarantor of the implementation of the state's strategic course for obtaining Ukraine's full membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’. At the same time, Draft Article 116 is supplemented with a new clause, according to which the Cabinet of Ministers ‘ensures the implementation of the state's strategic course for obtaining Ukraine's full membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’.
This president's initiative has found both positive and negative responses. Recall, joining the EU and NATO as a goal of Ukraine has already been enshrined in the Laws of Ukraine ‘On National Security and Defense’ and ‘On the Principles of Internal and Foreign Policy’. But ‘Among the politicians, it becomes increasingly desirable to question our clearly verified European course. Some irresponsible politicians depict the need to return to the East. …to prevent this I am sure it should be a direct text in the Constitution’- the President explains.
If we analyze the experience of the post-socialist countries that are now members of the EU, none of them changed their constitution to declare intentions about joining NATO and the EU. For example, Latvia joined the EU on the basis of the Constitution of 1922, although the document states that the sovereignty of the state is inviolable.
Volodymyr Denisyuk, Senior Analyst of the Ukrainian Council on Foreign Relations, is convinced that the fixing of intentions regarding the EU and NATO, even in the Constitution, will in no way affect the practical progress of Ukraine's European integration. ‘If there are no serious reforms in the country, if their results are not felt by ordinary citizens, then any political force will be able to change this course, even if it is prescribed in the Basic Law’, the expert said. Oleksandr Paliy, a political expert, on the contrary, noted that: ‘… such a step will demonstrate to Western partners the seriousness of our intentions regarding Euro-Atlantic integration, as it means that new Ukrainian government will not change the direction enshrined in the Constitution’.
In general, the EU took this news quite skeptical. ‘We are convinced that most people are looking towards Europe. And we have this conviction irrespective of whether it is enshrined in the Constitution or not’, – said the representative of the faction of the European People's Party, the permanent speaker of the European Parliament on Ukraine, Michael Galer, commenting on this initiative. The Social Democrat, Knut Fleckenstein said that Ukrainians themselves decide how to write their Constitution, but suggested that they still concentrate on 'today's work'. Rebecca Harms of the Green Group also believes that Ukraine needs some other changes. For example, the new Election Law.
NATO Press Service, commented on such an initiative by citing the NATO Summit resolution in Brussels. ‘We are unwavering support Ukraine's right to decide its future and foreign policy on its own, without external interference. In the light of the newly declared aspirations of Ukraine for NATO membership, we are faithful to our decision made at the Bucharest summit’, – it is mentioned in the part of the resolution concerning Ukraine.
Thus, the introduction of amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine regarding the acquisition of full membership of Ukraine in the EU and NATO is a rather controversial issue in the expert community. Moreover, the approach of the election makes it more like a political PR. However, this does not diminish its significance. Euro-Atlantic integration is a strategic course of Ukraine and it worth to be fixed in the Basic Law, given the long-term uncertainty of Ukraine and the geopolitical fluctuations of its foreign policy course. Certainly, the implementation of concrete practical steps in reforming the country to overcome corruption is the best guarantee of Euro-Atlantic integration. Taking into account the statements of European politicians, the results of reforms will determine the success of the integration processes in Ukraine.