Kyiv, 29 April 2014 – Igor Koliushko, Head of the Board of the Centre for Political and Legal Reforms, and Volodymyr Vasylenko, Professor of the National University of the “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”, spoke on perspectives of holding a constitutional reform in Ukraine.
Igor Koliushko informed that today, on 29 April Parliamentary hearings on holding a constitutional reform in Ukraine took place. “Larger part of the Prime Minister’s intervention was dedicated to the fact that Ukraine needs to prepare a draft law on amendments to the Constitution as soon as possible, to which all parliamentary factions and all candidates for presidency would agree. This draft law would need to be voted for the first time already in May before the presidential elections and would be passed to the Constitutional Court for consideration,” told Igor Koliushko. He noted that it’s indeed very much needed, however there’s a question on why there’s no draft law in place now.
The expert reminded that the temporary special commission to prepare the draft law was formed already on March 4 and it had to have this task done by April 15. This deadline was later extended until May 15. “Very little time is left and no draft law is in place,” said Igor Koliushko.
He also noted that both governmental and civil research groups have already passed several draft laws to the commission. These documents might be used as a basis to prepare the necessary document. “Why the MPs have not decided which of the proposed draft laws they are to take as a basis, why no comparative table on these laws was made remains a mystery for me, and the hearings didn’t make it clear,” the expert added.
In the opinion of the Head of the Board of the Centre for Political and Legal Reforms, some political forces in the Parliament use constitutional process as a PR tool in the presidential elections campaign. For example, Party of Region’s suggestions were made on a number of issues which cannot be addressed in the framework of work of the temporary special commission as they require amendments to the first, third and thirteenth chapters of the Constitution of Ukraine. To amend these chapters, support of at least 300 MPs is required. “The priority for today is whether at least 226 votes could be obtained to resolve those most topical issues which everyone seem to discuss and to which everybody agrees. These are the issues of decentralization, widening responsibilities of local self-governance, narrowing responsibilities of local state administrations,” said Igor Koliushko. In his opinion it is also necessary to amend the chapter concerning judiciary in order for the Ukrainian judiciary system to meet the Council of Europe and European Union standards.
In the expert’s opinion, another problem in the agenda is amending those drawbacks that in the Constituion draft of 2004 caused conflict between the President and the Prime Minister. “If we don’t introduce these changes quickly enough after the presidential elections, we could once again face the same problems and contradictions,” he noted. According to the expert, various options to resolve these issues exist. One of such options was prepared by the civic-scientific commission organized in the end of March, to comprise researchers, experts in the Consitutional field, NGOs representatives. Created draft law was passed to the MPs on 15 April however no feedback was received from them.
“As a representative of civil society, I am about to start demanding from the Parliament today to dismiss the existing temporary special commission and creating an ordinary not a temporary one with only MPs authorized to participate in it, but creating a constitutional commission the majority in which could be made of constitutional and legal academicians and civil society representatives. All parliamentary factions need to be represented in it,” said Igor Koliushko. In his opinion such a commission will develop the draft law quicker.
Volodymyr Vasylenko, Professor of the National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” added that it’s not about the quality of the Constitution but about the quality of the existing political elite. “I think it would make more sense to adopt the Constitution in a calm situation after the presidential elections not to have temptations to use the constitutional process to achieve political goals,” he said.
The Professor has also underlined that in the Constitutional Commmission the majority should be composed of experts not of representatives of political forces. In his opinion issues worth biggest attention are division of competences among authorities as well as creating a European-type system of local self-governance.
Igor Koliushko is the Head of the Board of the Centre for Political and Legal Reforms. Volodymyr Vasylenko is Professor of the National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”.