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12th Anniversary of Ukrainian Constitution
Special Contribution
By Yurii Mushka
Ukraine Ambassador to Seoul
Ukranian Ambassador to Seoul Yurii Mushka

On June 28, 2008 Ukrainian people mark the 12th Anniversary of the Constitution – the Fundamental Law of Ukraine. The Constitution of Ukraine was adopted at the 5th session of the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine, on June 28, 1996. The constitution was passed with 315 ayes out of 450 possible (300 ayes minimum). The Constitution is the fundamental law: laws and other normative legal acts must conform to it. The right to amend the Constitution through a special legislative procedure is vested exclusively with the Parliament. The only body that may interpret the Constitution and determine whether legislation conforms to it is the Constitutional Court of Ukraine.

The world praised not only the content of the fundamental law, which fully conforms to the standards of contemporary European democracy, but also the nature of the constitutional process itself. The Constitution was adopted after comprehensive and extensive proceedings. As a result, the document came to embody the interests of all segments of Ukrainian society and has become a reliable guarantor of the rule of law and a solid foundation upon which nowadays Ukraine is building its democratic principles of statehood. It created the conditions essential for developing in Ukrainian society values that are based on unwavering support for human rights and liberties, democracy and commitment to the national interest.

Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko

At the same time, the Constitution established fundamental principles that guide the foreign policy of our nation – it affirmed the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine's borders and significantly broadened the possibilities for finding the most effective mechanisms to ensure the national security of the state. Adoption of the Constitution allowed Ukraine to resolve a number of most essential foreign policy issues that our country had faced from the very moment of its rebirth as an independent state.

Over the years since the adoption of the Constitution, Ukraine has been introducing universal democratic standards into its political and economic culture in order to guarantee further successful implementation of democratic reforms in our state at all levels of political and social life.

Despite the young age of the current Ukrainian Constitution, traditions of the constitutional process in our state have very long history. In 1710 at the times of Zaporiz'ka Sich – the autonomous Cossack Republic — document was created and adopted under the name "Pacts, Constitutions, Rights and Liberties of Cossack Army," more known as the "Pylyp Orlyk's Constitution." That document legally formulated the right of the Ukrainian nation to have an independent state, laid down the principles of the division of powers between legislative, executive and judicial branches, setting the issues of the state borders, election rules, the state religion, status of Kyiv and Zaporiz'ka Sich as well as the financial, economic and military aspects of the Cossack State.

The scholars regard the "Pylyp Orlyk's Constitution" as a first Constitution in modern sense, which embraced the republican forms of public administration. Another remarkable fact is that this document was adopted 80 years prior to the achievements of the French revolution of 18th Century.

The process of creation of the modern Ukrainian state took place in difficult times of political, economic and social transformations. The modern history has no examples of such fast and complex transition from the rigid totalitarian system to a new democratic society with the open market economy.

Under the conditions of a drastic and total breakdown of the previous political system, state structure and way of life, adoption of the Ukrainian Constitution on June 28, 1996 was pivotal historical event. This act was a final step in transforming Ukraine from the constituent part of former Soviet Union into an independent state with own political, financial and monetary systems, government structures, armed forces, cultural and educational institutions. The Constitution also laid the civil society organizations and the multi-party system, provided the basic principles for the protection of rights of the national minorities.

At the same time, the realities of political and civil developments of Ukraine at the time of adoption of the Constitution significantly affected the content of the document, which has become a result of a political compromise. The draft of the Constitution as prepared by the working group of the Constitutional Commission had features of an integral and consistent legal document. However, the life made some corrections.

There was the vortex of emotions, which reigned on that "constitutional night" in the Session Hall of the Ukrainian parliament as well as the intensive "behind-the-scenes" work on separate articles of the document. Whereas the articles on human rights and civil liberties can serve as an example of clarity and accuracy, the imperfections of the constitutionally set mechanism of organization of power continues to breed the conflicts between the legislative and executive branches. It is necessary to recognize that it is not a unique Ukrainian problem. Similar differences of opinion between the head of state, the parliament and the government can emerge in many democratic countries. The only effective remedy would be the effective functioning of the legally provided mechanism, aimed at a civilized solution of such conflicts.

The Constitution of Ukraine created a legal base of our state. It embodies the greatest achievements of the Ukrainian and international constitutional theory and practice of constitutional development. It also takes into account historical experience of Ukrainian nation, its national concept and mentality. The Ukrainian Constitution provides legal guaranties for democracy, economic independence and offers guidelines for Ukraine's action at the international stage.






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