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Ukraine - annual report 2017

Published: June 1, 2018
Working visit by representatives of the Kiev Appeal Court to the Oldenburg Higher Regional Court: Victor Hlynianyi, Deputy Chairman of the Kiev Appeal Court (far left)
Working visit by representatives of the Kiev Appeal Court to the Oldenburg Higher Regional Court: Victor Hlynianyi, Deputy Chairman of the Kiev Appeal Court (far left)

Legal Policy Situation

Despite the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the situation in the country can be described as reasonably stable. Against some resistance, work is being carried out in Ukraine to break away from old structures.

From a legal policy point of view, the year under review was dominated by the judicial reform dealt with in the first part of the constitutional reform, which led above all to a restructuring or re-establishment of the Supreme Court in December 2017, into which the previous Supreme Court of Justice for Civil and Criminal Matters, the Supreme Economic Court and the Supreme Administrative Court were integrated as courts of appeal.

An application procedure was provided for all judges in the new Supreme Court to which the previous judges of the above-mentioned courts also had to submit. Therefore, a selection procedure for these judicial posts was already conducted during the course of 2017. In November, the first 114 new judges of the Supreme Court were sworn in. This rigorous selection procedure, in which civil society bodies were also involved, is intended to ensure the high qualification and integrity of the newly recruited judges and is now expected to be extended to the lower courts as well. Furthermore, a Supreme Court for Intellectual Property and a Supreme Court for Anti-Corruption Cases are to be newly established. The IRZ has already held consultations on the planned establishment of a Supreme Court for Intellectual Property, and further discussions on the establishment of both courts are on the agenda.

The President’s Constitutional Commission continued its work in the year under review. In addition to the already existing three working groups (human rights, decentralisation and the judiciary), a fourth working group was set up, dedicated to the constitutional status of Crimea and its ethnic groups – Russians, Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians. The first part of the Constitutional Amendment Act adopted in 2016, which contains the judicial reform, had to be implemented in the year under review, e. g. with regard to the newly introduced individual constitutional complaint (as an appellate action).

The fight against corruption and the work of still young institutions such as NABU (National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine) or the Special Prosecutor’s Office still play an important role in the legal policy landscape and in the public debate.

The EU Association Agreement with Ukraine, which is also one of the six Eastern Partnership Member States, entered into full force on 1 September 2017. Since 11 June 2017, Ukrainian citizens with a biometric passport have been allowed to enter most EU countries without a visa.

Overall Concept

In the course of the judicial reform in 2017, in addition to the Highest Judicial Qualification Committee and the Supreme Judicial Council, the Supreme Court was one of the important interlocutors to the IRZ – the latter, in particular within the framework of the EU Twinning project described below and the bilateral work of the IRZ with a view to the new composition of the court. The IRZ conducts regular judicial further training courses with the Judges’ Association of Ukraine on a wide variety of topics and in numerous regions of Ukraine in order to achieve the widest possible impact.

Within the framework of the constitutional reform, cooperation with the Constitutional Court of Ukraine as well as with the Constitutional Commission, to which the IRZ is able to send an advisor regularly, is of great importance. The professional exchange with Ukrainian administrative courts is being pursued with continued intensity, with administrative courts in the regions of Ukraine also being involved time and again. Consultations on the Administrative Procedures Act are also to be picked up again as soon as possible.

In March 2017, the Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, Heiko Maas, signed a new joint declaration, together with a work programme on cooperation between the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, which already included measures on penitentiary law, enforcement law as well as the Hague Convention on Child Abduction (HCCA) in the year under review.

The promotion of the next generation of young lawyers was also continued with the German-language supplementary introductory studies in German law at the National Ivan Franko University in Lviv.

As in previous years, the IRZ was able to rely on donations from the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and on project funding from the Federal Foreign Office.

Foci of Activity 2017

Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability

Civil and Commercial Law

Administration of Justice

Public Law

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

Basic and Further Training

Projects financed by the European Union

Twinning Project: Strengthening the institutional capacity of the Supreme Court of Ukraine in the field of human rights protection at the national level

With this Twinning project, the IRZ, together with the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Latvia as a junior partner, is supporting the newly established Ukrainian Supreme Court in moving it closer to modern European standards. The project started in March 2017 and will run for 24 months. It has a budget of around EUR 1.3 million.

Due to a comprehensive reform of the judiciary, the Ukrainian Supreme Court was rebuilt in 2017 as a court of appeal. In addition to restructuring, the complete replacement of judges at the end of 2017 following an open call for applications is of central importance for the Ukrainian judicial system.

The main objective of the project is to familiarise the newly appointed judges with the new way of thinking of the appeal judges. In addition, it is also intended firstly to improve the legal framework for the work of the Supreme Court of Ukraine in accordance with EU standards, secondly to increase the professionalism of judges and employees and thirdly to augment the effectiveness of the Supreme Court’s case law. Furthermore, it is the project’s task to improve public access to information on case law and to contribute to the effectiveness of working processes.

After delays in selecting and appointing the new judges, who are the main target group of the project activities, measures were able to enter the stage of concrete planning and structuring in the second half of 2017. In addition, judges from four member states drew up a comparative analysis of legislation in Ukraine and EU member states and prepared the basis for further analysis and recommendations in the field of e-justice.

Outlook

The extensive reform of the judiciary and the implementation of the constitutional amendments will also shape the further cooperation with the Ukrainian partners. In connection with the reform of the judiciary, questions of the law on judges will have to be discussed with the Supreme Court, the Highest Judicial Qualification Committee, the Supreme Judicial Council, the Qualification and Disciplinary Board of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the National Judicial School.

The IRZ consultations will also continue to focus on administrative jurisdiction, which is important for a functioning state embracing the rule of law, and thus on the further training for Ukrainian administrative judges. It is important that the administrative law working group of the Ministry of Justice, in which the IRZ will be represented, has recommenced its work on the draft of the Administrative Procedures Act. The IRZ will therefore be able to resume cooperation in this important area of law, following on from its previous long-standing consultations.

As part of the above-mentioned Joint Declaration, cooperation between the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice will be continued and expanded.

The promotion of young researchers is also to be continued in the form of the German-language study programme at the University of Lviv, which has been tried and tested for many years.