On June 28, 2012, Ukraine marks a national holiday – the Day of Constitution of Ukraine. On this day 16 years ago Verkhovna Rada (the parliament) of Ukraine adopted a new basic law of the country - the first modern Constitution of an independent Ukrainian state.
With the adoption of the Constitution legal framework for independent Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity was fixed. The Constitution embraced the historical experience of the Ukrainian people and the world's best traditions.
Pylyp Orlyk, the hetman (military and state leader) of Ukraine in emigration in XVIII, introduced a colorful page to the history of development of Constitution. “Pacts and Constitutions of Rights and Freedoms of the Zaporizhian Host” (1710) are considered to be the first Constitution of the Ukrainian state. In general, the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk was in harmony with the tendencies of that time in the development of a European political thought, in some aspects it was even ahead of European political theory and practice, while giving preference to the principles of constitutionalism above the idea of absolutism, which was prevalent at that time in Europe.
The next important stage in the process of creating the Ukrainian state was the adoption by the Central Council on April 29, 1918, of the Fundamental Law of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UPR) under the name “Statute on State System, rights and Freedoms of UPR”, as well as adoption by the Western Ukrainian Republic on November 13, 1918, of the Provisional Fundamental Law. However, the tragic events of that time prevented implementation of the principles of these documents.
It is worth mentioning that the Constitution of the UPR was based on the democratic standards, which are now recognized by the international community as fundamental principles of the creation of a state. The document secured the state sovereignty as a main source of state authority, territorial integrity, cultural rights of national minorities; important role was devoted to local self-government and the principle of distribution of authority. The Constitution determined equality of all citizens regardless of age, belief, race and gender, abolished death penalty, while securing fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Taking into consideration this rich constitutional heritage, Ukraine started to elaborate its Fundamental Law right after declaring its independence in 1991. The best world and Ukrainian experts were involved in this process, which ended with the adoption of the Constitution by the Verkhovna Rada in June, 1996.
A long and difficult path of political self-determination proved an immortal will of the Ukrainians to have its own statehood, to be sovereign among other free nations of Europe and the world.
It is noteworthy that the Constitution of Ukraine of 1996, in addition to fixing the key principles of statehood, democracy and fundamental human rights and freedoms, determines Ukraine's foreign policy as aimed to ensure its national interests and security by maintaining peaceful and mutually beneficial cooperation with the international community on the basis of universally recognized principles and norms of international law.
The adoption of the Fundamental Law was the starting point of a new era in the history of Ukraine, which ensured stabilization of the socio-political and socio-economic situation in the country.
However, the development of the Ukrainian state has demonstrated the need for further improvement of the Fundamental Law of our country.
An attempt of such reforming was taken in December 2004. But this process has not reached its goal because the constitutional procedure of amending the Constitution of Ukraine was violated and became the realization of the compromise between different political forces.
That is why the continuation of the constitutional reform is among the top priorities in comprehensive process of reforming, started by the President of Ukraine. Its aim is to ensure accordance of modern social processes with the European standards and values.
Proof of intent hardness of the President to carry out the constitutional reform in Ukraine was the decision to support community initiatives to establish a Constitutional Assembly as an effective mechanism to ensure strict compliance with existing law and attract the widest possible potential of the society.
On May 17, 2012, the Constitutional Assembly was formed by the Decree of the President of Ukraine. Leonid Kravchuk – the President of Ukraine in 1991-1994 – was appointed as Head of the Constitutional Assembly. Among the members of the Assembly are the best scientific and public experts in the sphere of Ukrainian constitutionalism, what makes its work effective and creates open professional format for the discussion about modernization of the Constitution, reaching the high level of public perception and the possibility of political consensus during the procedure of amending the Fundamental Law.
On June 20, 2012, the first meeting of the Constitutional Assembly was held, during which it was decided to concentrate efforts on elaboration of the Concept of amending the Constitution.
Modernized Constitution should be oriented on the strengthening of a human being as the highest value of society and the state. The priorities in the process of modernization of the Fundamental Law are, in particular, strengthening of the constitutional guarantees of rights and freedoms of man and citizen, broadening of constitutional regulation of institutes of direct democracy, increase of the mechanism of organization and balance of state authority. Improved Constitution should become a document which secures the basics of the innovational model of social and state development, determines a strict distribution of authority, which will secure a balance in the authority and protect the state from conflicts and authoritarian regime.
Strengthening of the Constitution of Ukraine as a real modern nationwide political and legal agreement, basic law of national law will become a reliable ground for the future development of the Ukrainian state.
Improvement of the Fundamental Law will take place exceptionally in the legal framework, determined by the Part XIII of the acting Constitution of Ukraine, on the principles of transparency, accessibility, democracy and non-interference of state authority representatives.
Ensuring of the reliable protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, formation of balanced system of representative democracy of the European model, strengthening of the parlamentarism, building of an effective system of restraint and counterbalance determine the ultimate aim of the constitutional reforming in Ukraine.
In order to achieve this aim, Ukrainian will continue an open dialogue with all interested foreign partners, first of all, experts of the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission.