Вт. Окт 15th, 2019

Candy in chocolate: why amend the Constitution of Ukraine on the EU and NATO

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The Constitution of Ukraine now sets a course for the EU and NATO, which at least pushed the desired events in time. The fact that the amendments themselves, and the peculiarities of their voting, indirectly indicate that the probability of a reversal is high.

Through africa

The morning began sunny. Before the morning plenary session of the Verkhovna Rada, where the amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine were adopted, Aleksey Goncharenko, chairman of the BPP faction, considered pro-presidential, predicted the effectiveness of the vote. Meanwhile, the first hour of the parliament’s work on Thursday, February 7, did not give grounds for optimism: the leaders of the parliamentary factions “Batkivshchyna” and “Radical Party Lyashko” sharply criticized the initiative of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko. Yulia Tymoshenko and Oleg Lyashko. In the expressions they were not shy. Yulia Tymoshenko: “The President began to use the things holy for Ukrainians.” Oleg Lyashko: “The real European integration is the welfare of people … You are going to Europe through Africa!”
A curious version was expressed by the leader of the Opposition Bloc faction, Vadim Novinsky: “From a legal point of view, the changes proposed by the president to bypass the referendum are usurpation of power.”

Let’s save Ukraine from the Kremlin’s misfortune

But then the President of Ukraine arrived at the Verkhovna Rada twice blocked that morning. Petro Poroshenko spoke concisely and nervously, apparently remembering the «cold shower» on the day of voting on the martial law: «Let’s save Ukraine from the Kremlin’s misfortune!»
What is the essence of the amendments? Adopted by 335 votes in favor of the Preamble of the Constitution of Ukraine in part “taking care of strengthening civil peace on the land of Ukraine” with the phrase “and confirming the European identity of the Ukrainian people and the irreversibility of the European and Euro-Atlantic course of Ukraine”.

The powers of the central government are adjusted

Accordingly, the powers of the central government are adjusted. For example, the Verkhovna Rada, in addition to defining the foundations of foreign and domestic policy, implements the state’s strategic course towards the EU and NATO, and the president “is the guarantor” of its implementation. And the Cabinet of Ministers «provides implementation» of this course. It is important that Chapter 15 of the “Transitional Provisions”, which deals with the use of military bases for the temporary stay of foreign military formations solely on lease terms in accordance with the agreements ratified by BP, is excluded.
The main significance of the amendments is not so much in fixing the course on the EU and NATO, but in the redistribution of powers. For parliament, the powers are narrowed: the definition of the external and internal political course of Ukraine is broader than their component, the course towards the EU and NATO. The president is expanding his powers: he acts as a guarantor of the new course and therefore can, on this basis, from now on challenge any decision of the Verkhovna Rada that will even more distort the unbalanced power system of Ukraine. The exclusion of their transitional provisions of the bloc on foreign troops destroys the prerogative of the Verkhovna Rada to give consent to the basing of foreign troops in Ukraine, albeit temporarily. Theoretically, on the basis of amendments made to the Constitution of Ukraine on February 7, the parliament could challenge its right to ratify the agreement on the admission of foreign troops to Ukraine (for joint exercises, for example). Thus, the entire military-military cycle closes the President of Ukraine.

It can be concluded with high probability that the true purpose of the amendments to the Constitution is still in the redistribution of powers: in the end, the field for decisions of the Verkhovna Rada in the sphere of foreign policy is narrowed. The election effect of the amendments, to which many experts draw attention, is only a bonus to the expansion of preferences and the real power of the current president of Ukraine.

Russian no

Part of the environment which, perhaps, is preparing a U-turn or is interested in it. On the same day, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a law banning Russian observers, “as well as all those recommended by Russia,” to work in the Ukrainian elections. And if the amendments to the Constitution on the EU and NATO were positively met by both the EU and the USA, then the reaction of Western politicians was not so clear. What caused irritation in the pro-presidential faction of the Ukrainian parliament. Aleksey Goncharenko mentioned by us after the vote, commenting on the ambiguous reaction of European ambassadors and politicians, said: “What do they care, where do we want, what have we decided for ourselves? It’s not for them to tell our deputies what they decide. ” The US special representative Kurt Volker did not escape the irritated remarks, in the recent past he was the indisputable authority for Ukrainian politicians.

“Ukrainization and NATOization”

Let us return to the amendments to the Constitution. Another effect of them is blocking the reintegration of Donbass back to Ukraine. As you know, the lowest level of support for the course in the EU and NATO in Ukraine until 2014 was observed just in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Undoubtedly, the leadership of the unrecognized “L \ DNR” will build on this decision of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine a propaganda construction, frightening the population with “Ukrainization and NATOization”.

It is not excluded that such a decision of the Ukrainian parliament is in some ways advantageous to the current leaders of L \ DNR.

Donbass Fears 

But what is the benefit of supporters of European integration and joining NATO, who also spoke for the return of Donbass to Ukraine? Hypothetically, the benefit is the same: to block all «peace plans» that can arise both in Ukrainian and in Western politicians. Indirectly, the amendments will prolong the armed conflict in the Donbas, supporting Ukrainian politicians who support a forceful victory over Russia.
Also, the pro-presidential environment, aimed at the second term of Petro Poroshenko, is trying to reverse the course of the campaign campaign in the direction of foreign policy issues, pushing social, where the current government has modest successes, into the background.
But there is another nuance. By fixing a certain foreign policy course in a fundamental government document, the Ukrainian government not only obliges, but also obliges. Specifically — the European Union and NATO — to support Ukraine. Although the interests of the European Union and the Alliance may change, the Ukrainian president will always be able to refer to the Constitution and accuse Western partners of betrayal. In this case, Ukraine gets a lever to manipulate Western politicians or at least minimal influence on them.

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At the same time, even with an actual turnaround on Russia, the Ukrainian president will always be able to refer to the consolidation of amendments to the Basic Law as proof of his European integration aspirations. And, if his initiatives do not directly contradict the fixed course, it will be impossible to prove the opposite.
The problem of all the good amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine is one: they do not work and — in some cases — the Constitution themselves and contradict.

Lilia Brudnitskaya, expert of the Center for Structural Political Science «Vybor» («Choice»)

Photo press service of the President of Ukraine