Sign up now: Strengthening the rule of law and press freedom in the EU

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The rule of law ensures that everyone is held accountable according to the same rules, while a free press keeps a spotlight on the centres of powers. However, we have seen how the erosion of one has led to the weakening of the other, undermining democracy in the European Union.

Now, what can we do about it? How can freedom of the media and the rule of law strengthen each other to help stem the tide?

Join us on Zoom at 9:30 CEST on 24 June 2021 to find out. You can register here.

We will be talking to four people at the forefront of this fight:

Hans Felber-Charbonneau, Communications Coordinator at Democracy Reporting International, will moderate the discussion.

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) works to improve public understanding of the rule of law in the EU as part of the re:constitution programme funded by Stiftung Mercator. Sign up to DRI’s newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about the rule of law in Europe.

Photo credit: Diana Robinson / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Event: Free elections to resolve the crisis in Belarus

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On 1 and 2 June 2021, we held the international conference on “Democratic Elections for Resolution of Crisis in Belarus”.

Our purpose was to bring together Belarusian and international experts on elections to discuss ideas for holding early elections as a means to ending the political crisis in Belarus. 

In spring 2021, almost 800,000 Belarusian citizens took part in an online survey to express their support for negotiations leading to early elections and several international actors have supported the idea of resolving the crisis through an election. 

Our speakers considered ways to establish a dialogue between the society and the current authorities of Belarus to create conditions for early elections. This includes ways to hold such elections and achieve the long-term goal – fundamental electoral reform in Belarus, including the adoption of a new electoral code. More information about the conference can be found in the programme available here.

The working languages of the conference were Belarusian, Russian and English.

The event was streamed live in Russian on Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s official YouTube channel. Watch the English recordings below.

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The conference was organised jointly by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), International IDEA, and DRI. 

Photo Credit: Homoatrox – Protest rally against Lukashenko, 20 September 2020. Minsk, Belarus

Power and the covid-19 pandemic: Webinar series

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Marking the conclusion of the “Power and the COVID-19 Pandemic” symposium, an upcoming webinar series running from 12-14 May will bring together contributors from around the world to discuss the impact of the pandemic on law and governance, drawing on five cross-cutting  themes:

  • human rights
  • democracy
  • the rule of law
  • science and decision-making
  • the impact of an extended emergency

Find out more and register for the webinars here.

The 2021 “Power and the COVID-19 Pandemic” symposium was hosted by the Verfassungsblog, convened by Joelle Grogan, and supported by Democracy Reporting International, the Horizon-2020 RECONNECT Project and the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law.

Watch now: Launch of new DRI report on covid-19 and the rule of law in the EU

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One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, EU Member States have been among the hardest-hit countries in the world. Suffering from high mortality rates and successive waves of infection, states (re)introduced highly restrictive measures.

To evaluate how the pandemic response has affected the rule of law across the EU, Democracy Reporting International gathered assessments from 35 national experts, covering all 27 Member States.

This analysis is brought together in DRI’s new report Extraordinary or extralegal responses? The rule of law and the COVID-19 crisis, which identifies five critical areas of concern across all EU Member States and provides recommendations on how to address them.

To mark the launch of our new report, we invite met on 5 May 2021, 10:30-12:00 CET  for the discussion of our findings and further perspectives with:

  • Joelle Grogan, Senior lecturer and legal academic at Middlesex University London and author of DRI’s new report
  • Álvaro de Elera, Member of European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová’s Cabinet, responsible for the rule of law portfolio
  • Veronika Bílková, Member of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe

The event was moderated by Paul Zoubkov, Manager Europe at Democracy Reporting International.

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Democracy Reporting International (DRI) works to improve public understanding of the rule of law in the EU as part of the re:constitution programme funded by Stiftung Mercator. Sign up to DRI’s newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about the rule of law in Europe.

Webinar: Power and the covid-19 pandemic

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One year on how has the covid-19 pandemic affected the law, and the way states govern? Should we be concerned about the ongoing use of emergency powers? How can we look forward to what lies ahead?

Marking the launch of the 2021 Power and the COVID-19 Pandemic” Symposium, this webinar will bring together five contributors to discuss the impact of the pandemic on legal systems globally, and offer initial assessments for the rule of law, democracy, and human rights:

  • Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Regents Professor University of Minnesota Law School; Professor of Law, Queens University Belfast; UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism
  • Martin Scheinin, British Academy Global Professor, Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, University of Oxford; part-time Professor, European University Institute, Florence; Collaborator of the PluriCourts Centre of Excellence, University of Oslo; Member of the Scientific Committee of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency
  • Thomas Bustamante, Professor of Legal Theory at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil; Research Productivity Fellow of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development
  • Thulasi K. Raj, Advocate, Supreme Court and Kerala High Court; Equality Fellow, Centre for Law & Policy Research, Bangalore
  • Jakub Jaraczewski, Legal Officer, Democracy Reporting International

The webinar took place on 24 February, 14:00-15:30 CET. It was chaired by Joelle Grogan (Middlesex University London) who is the convenor of the Symposium.

Watch the full video below.

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The Power and the COVID-19 Pandemic Symposium beginning on 22 February 2021 is hosted by the Verfassungsblog and supported by Democracy Reporting International, RECONNECT, and the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law. The Symposium brings together experts from over 70 countries to reflect on how legal and political systems have adapted to ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and to offer recommendations on the future of good governance.

Tunisia: Access to information – a prerequisite for managing crises

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On Monday, 28 September 2020, Tunisia celebrated this year’s International Access to Information Day under the theme “The Right of Access to Information in Times of Crisis”. At a time characterised by the intense global spread of covid-19, access to information remains a fundamental right for citizens and a necessity for the successful management of this health crisis.

Together with the official Access to Information Authority (INAI), UNESCO and Article 19, DRI Tunisia held an event to mark the occasion, gathering political figures, members of independent public bodies, civil society and journalists.

Read the full story in French here.

What may happen: Pathways for a political transition in Belarus

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While it is not clear whether the public protests in Belarus will succeed in effecting political change, they have surprised observers by their strength and determination. This article looks at possible pathways for a transition.

1. A revolutionary scenario

The demonstrators have so far acted in a highly civil manner. Despite the brutal attacks of state agencies, protests have remained peaceful. Demonstrations have taken place in public places, but, so far, have not specifically focused on centres of state power.

Importantly, the protesters are not calling for a revolution, but have rather demanded full respect for the constitutional guarantees for democratic elections and freedom of assembly. When Lukashenko addressed the workers of a Tractor Factory, one of the workers shouted: “We want fair elections, not revolution”.

A revolutionary scenario in which demonstrators storm institutions, such as parliament, ministries and take over state media is unlikely in these circumstances. So far, the size and determination of the protests have managed to change the stance of some institutional personnel, such as staff at the state broadcaster, while the brutality of the security services has provided momentum to the protests and bolstered support.

In this context, parts of the elite may well decide that the situation is untenable and force President Lukashenko and his inner circle to relinquish power. Such a scenario could result in his sudden resignation, though at the moment there is no indication for that.

In this scenario, if current elites fail to present a credible alternative (new personnel in key institutions, the promise of free and fair elections soon), the resulting power vacuum could be filled by opposition forces. It is worth noting that the political system is based on personal relationships with Lukashenko, leaving no strong structures to organize a post-Lukashenko situation.

In such situations, opposition parties and groups typically form temporary bodies to manage the transition towards free and fair elections. One recent example was Tunisia’s “Higher Authority for the Realisation of the Objectives of the Revolution, Political Reform and Democratic Transition”, an ad-hoc body with broad-based membership, which oversaw initial steps until elections were held in the wake of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution. The opposition in Belarus has already established a Co-ordination Council, to provide a leadership structure in such a scenario.

2. An orderly transition

There are several pathways towards an orderly transition:

  • Lukashenko may resign, in which case a new presidential election would need to be held within 30-70 days. A new election process could provide the nucleus for a wider political transition (see below) if held under democratic conditions (see also below).
  • Parliament has the power to remove the President, but the process is both lengthy and complex, ultimately requiring a two-thirds majority. This is unlikely as the current legislature is the product of the deeply-flawed 2019 elections in which only pro-government candidates won seats.
  • The Supreme Court could annul the 9 August elections, in response to various appeals that have been lodged. Annulment of the elections is the most direct pathway to a new election, but this would require that judges discover a sense of independence from the executive branch. If events move in favour of the protesters, the judges could well see an annulment as a means of ensuring their role in a future, democratic Belarus. Alternatively, the Court may declare the appeals inadmissible or confirm the official results.
  • A negotiated transition, in which Lukashenko withdraws or agrees on conditions for democratic elections is also possible.

The core of a negotiated transition is already present in the opposition demand for a release of all political prisoners and a repeat of the presidential election. While the former can be implemented by government order, conducting a new election is a complex and challenging task:

  • Repeat or re-count?

One option would be a recount of the ballots of the 9 August election, but this is highly problematic and has been rejected by most opposition figures. A falsified election leaves behind a crime scene on election night, which is now more than ten days old and could well have been compromised. Ballot papers are reported to have been destroyed. Large scale electoral fraud involves the falsification of ballots and counting protocols, making it impossible to reconstruct the voters’ intentions accurately. In short, it is too late to recount ballots.

Furthermore, genuine elections are much more than just voting. The serious shortcomings of the 9 August election (biased media coverage, denial of registration to opposition candidates, lack of transparency, suppression of independent election observation) cannot be rectified by a recount. The only genuine election possible is a new election.

  • Which election to repeat: president only, or also parliament?

Currently, the demand is for the 9 August presidential election to be repeated. If an opposition candidate were to win the presidency, this would represent a sea change in Belarusian politics. Given the centrality of the president in the overall power structure, significant change in all state institutions could be achieved by a new president supported by clearly articulated popular demands. A  new president could dismiss and replace the prime minister (article 106 constitution). If parliament failed to support such a course of action, the president could dissolve parliament and call for new elections.

It is worth recalling that the current parliament is the result of the flawed November 2019 elections which failed to meet the standards for democratic elections and Belarus’s commitments as an OSCE participating state. The OSCE/ODIHR election observer mission concluded that “fundamental freedoms were disregarded and the integrity of the election process was not adequately safeguarded”[1]. Not a single opposition candidate won a seat in the 110-member parliament.[2] In that sense elections for president and parliament at the same time would also be justified.

The 2018 local government elections were equally problematic, but whereas a case can be made for repeating both the parliamentary and presidential elections in parallel, adding the local level to the new electoral process could create logistical challenges and detract focus from the national elections. Nevertheless, a negotiated transition should include the conduct of new, democratic local elections within a reasonable timeframe.

A new president could also propose constitutional changes to undo the heritage of Lukashenko’s 26-year-rule, such as unlimited presidential terms, subject to approval by referendum.

  • Who should manage repeat elections?

Elections in Belarus are overseen by the Central Election Commission (CEC) – a key enabler of the country’s flawed elections. The CEC chairwoman, Lidia Yermoshina, and eight of her colleagues were on the EU’s sanctions list for falsification of the 2006 presidential election. The CEC further undermined is credibility when Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was held in its premises on 10 August and forced to read a prepared statement to explain her forced departure to Lithuania.

As part of any transition deal, the opposition may demand that a completely new CEC with credible, democratically oriented-personnel is established to manage new elections. However, any new commission would have to rely on its sub-ordinate commissions (53 Territorial Election Commissions and 6,129 Precinct Election Commissions) as well as other bodies and agencies needed to implement elections. If a new body was formed, care would need to be taken to ensure that its members have the skills and the authority to oversee the technical side of elections. Alternatively, the CEC chair could be replaced by a respected figure who commands broad-based support, and new members, such as representatives of candidates and civil society organisations, could be added to make sure commands public confidence. This model could be replicated for Territorial and Precinct Election Commissions.

The OSCE/ODIHR confirmed this point in its declaration on 19 August: “The authorities of Belarus are urged to take immediate steps to address the lack of impartiality of the election administration at all levels, which previous ODIHR election observations have found to be under government control.”

  • What technical aspects would be critical in a new election?

Transparency is critical. In contrast with previous elections, strong transparency guarantees would need to be in place for all phases of the electoral process, in particular during counting and aggregation of results. Stalin allegedly said: “It’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes.” Lukashenko put that into practice. Without transparency guarantees, OSCE/ODIHR reported on the 2015 presidential election that significant problems, particularly during the counting of votes and tabulation of election results, “undermined the integrity of the election.”

Fresh elections would, especially if administered by the existing electoral administration, require the strongest possible transparency provisions to deter fraud and build voter trust in the process. Such provisions must include: unhindered accreditation of election observers; unhindered monitoring of counting by observers, possibly including counting in polling stations being broadcast online; public display of polling station official results at each level of the electoral administration in hard copy and online; every polling station result should be visible in the overall results published by the CEC.

  • Beyond election management, what about other conditions of democratic elections?

Beyond voting and counting, the whole electoral process in Belarus is deeply flawed to benefit the incumbent. In relation to the 2015 Presidential elections, the OSCE/ODIHR noted that “legal amendments in 2011 and 2012 increased existing limitations on fundamental freedoms of association, assembly and expression. The law gives the authorities wide discretionary powers to deny registration or deregister political parties and public associations (…). Despite repeated applications, no new political party has been able to register since 2000, which is at odds with paragraph 7.6 of the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document. The amendments introduced burdensome procedures for obtaining permission to hold public assemblies and increased sanctions for organizing unauthorized meetings. Freedom of expression was further limited by a ban on calls and acts of disruption, cancellation or postponement of elections in addition to existing criminal and administrative offences for defamation and insult.”

Violations such as these were particularly pronounced in the 2020 elections. Before repeat elections could be held, it should be considered to amend the legal framework to remove barriers to the exercise of the fundamental rights of participation, association, assembly and expression. State agencies would need to be committed to upholding voters rights in the implementation of their electoral responsibilities. None of this can be done at short notice.

[1] “Elections proceeded calmly but did not meet important international standards for democratic elections. There was an overall disregard for fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression. A high number of candidates stood for election, but an overly restrictive registration process inhibited the participation of opposition. A limited amount of campaigning took place, within a restrictive environment that, overall, did not provide for a meaningful or competitive political contest. Media coverage of the campaign did not enable voters to receive sufficient information about contestants. The election administration was dominated by the executive authorities, limiting its impartiality and independence, and the integrity of the election process was not adequately safeguarded. Significant procedural shortcomings during the counting of votes raised concerns about whether results were counted and reported honestly, and an overall lack of transparency reduced the opportunity for meaningful observation.” The OSCE/ODIHR report on the 2019 parliamentary elections  can be downloaded here:

[2] The 2019 elections were based on a majoritarian, first-past-the-post system for each of the 110  seats.  The system favoured candidates that were pro-government. In a new, free election, such as a system would be likely to favour the opposition. It is possible that no MP of the ruling party would be re-elected.

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) strengthens democracy by shaping the institutions that make it sustainable. We support local ways of promoting democracy with impartial analysis and good practices, bringing international standards to life. Sign-up to our newsletter to stay up-to-date.

Photo credit: Âme inconsolable/Flickr

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated a maximum period of 90 days for presidential elections after resignation. The maximum is 70 days.

Webinar: The Rule of Law and Long-Term Impacts of Covid-19 Emergency Measures

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Almost all EU Member States have introduced states of emergency or enacted similar measures to contain the spread of covid-19. These legal regimes have profoundly affected the rule of law, altering the political and legal landscape. As EU countries gradually lift the lockdowns and begin opening their borders and economies, which emergency measures will remain in place? Businesses are re-opening, but freedom of assembly remains restricted and courts function at minimum capacity. Simultaneously, while attention is focused on the fight against the virus, measures might intentionally or accidentally escape scrutiny and remain in force despite no longer being needed.

Our webinar, held on 9 June 2020, explored these challenges, their lingering consequences and dangerous developments, focusing on the situation in Finland, Hungary, Italy and Poland, as well as on cross-cutting issues common to all EU Member States.

Our panellists included:

  • Professor Cristina Fasone (Assistant Professor in Comparative Public Law at Luiss Guido Carlo, Rome)
  • Jakub Jaraczewski (Legal Officer, Democracy Reporting International)
  • Professor Kim Lane Scheppele (Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Sociology and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School and the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University)
  • Professor Martin Scheinin (Professor of International Law and Human Rights, European University Institute, Florence; former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism)

In Hungary, worrying reforms and dangerous adjustments to the constitutional framework are underway whereas in Poland, strict measures overlap with an impending overload of courts and an ongoing attempt to hold the presidential election. In Italy, a fractured legal landscape of measures met one of the most severe outbreaks of the virus while in Finland – a country almost serene by comparison – the pandemic nevertheless provided unique legal challenges. 

Despite different experiences in both the outbreak of covid-19 and the reaction to it, all four countries face some common challenges. The constitutional frameworks for states of emergency were tested, with some countries forgoing them altogether. Emergency measures were introduced using a wide, and frequently confusing, variety of instruments, leading to a lack of legal certainty. In the extreme case of Hungary, these measures give rise to the fear of a permanent state of emergency. In all four countries, courts are set to face a daunting task of dealing with an overload of postponed and delayed cases while facing new “corona-cases” unique to the circumstances related to the pandemic. 

Questions from the audience touched upon lessons learnt for drafting emergency legislation and the role of the civil society in the process of countering a pandemic. 

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This webinar was organised in cooperation with the RECONNECT programme.

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) works to improve public understanding of the rule of law in the EU as part of the re:constitution programme funded by Stiftung Mercator. Sign-up to DRI’s newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about the rule of law in Europe.

Legal News: The Constitutional Court of Ukraine and the Judicial Reform Process

The Attempt of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to Determine Fundamentals of the Judicial Reform Process – DRI Legal News by Kostyantyn Krasovsky

These views do not necessarily represent the views of DRI

In early 2020, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine (CCU, or “the Court”) decoded a number of cases which in effect represented a systemic analysis of “checks and balances” in the Constitution of Ukraine and developed its strategic vision of the judicial reform process. On 18 February 2020, Decision No.2-r/2020 was rendered upon the constitutional motion of the “old” Supreme Court of Ukraine (SCU) regarding the fate of the key law of judicial reform carried out by former president Petro Poroshenko. On 11 March 2020, Decision No.4-r/2020 finalised the case upon the constitutional motion of the “new” Supreme Court (SC) regarding the attempt at judicial reform initiated by President Volodymyr Zelensky.[1] These two decisions, as well as numerous separate dissenting opinions by CCU judges, demonstrate the extent to which the Court seized its opportunity. It is noteworthy that six separate opinions were added to Decision No.2-r/2020, and four to Decision No.4-r/2020.

1. The decision regarding the fate of the “old” Supreme Court of Ukraine

1.1. Background

On 2 June 2016, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine concerning the judiciary (Law 1401-VIII); it marked the end of the constitutional phase of the judicial reform initiated in 2014 by former president Petro Poroshenko, and the beginning of a new, legislative stage. Along with other relevant pieces of legislation, the new Law of Ukraine “On the Judiciary and Status of Judges” (Law 1402-VIII) was adopted. While the SCU publicly supported the need for a radical overhaul of the judicial branch, it used its right to appeal to the Constitutional Court, stating that Section XII “Final and Transitional Provisions” of Law 1402-VIII contained “some provisions, the essence, content and practical implementation of which, in the opinion of the SCU Plenum, do not conform to the Constitution of Ukraine”. It is noteworthy that the SCU did not question the constitutionality of the general substantive rules of Law 1402-VIII, which, being guided by new constitutional approaches, concerned the organisation of the judicial branch and the status of judges. The SCU disagreed only with procedural rules contained in transitional provisions of this law that regulated technical issues of the transition to the new system. The SCU questioned the constitutionality of provisions concerning the termination of activities and liquidation of the SCU, as well as of higher specialised courts; the establishment, commencement of activities and selection and appointment of judges of the new Supreme Court; the termination of powers of judges whose five-year tenure was over; provisions for the release of judges from office based on the results of their evaluation; and the determination of judicial remuneration and permanent financial allowance.

1.2. Decision No.2-r/2020

In this decision, responding to the case brought by the SCU, the CCU indicated that the Ukrainian Parliament should comply with constitutionally defined boundaries regarding the status, organisation, functioning and activities of constitutional bodies and their officials. It determined the necessity of applying the principle of institutional continuity when making changes to the Constitution of Ukraine. According to the CCU, this principle had been followed when the “highest institute of judicial power” was reformed, and “the removal of the word ‘Ukraine’ – the name of the state – from the word combination ‘the Supreme Court of Ukraine’ did not affect the constitutional status of this public authority”. The constitutionality of provisions of Law 1402-VIII regarding the establishment and commencement of activities of the SC, the beginning of the contest, and the appointment of SC judges was confirmed. The CCU also stated that the legislator “acted within the limits of its constitutional powers” when determining the necessity for judges whose five-year tenure had expired to participate in the contest. It emphasised that such requirements result from the transitional provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine.

Considering the issue of termination of the activities of the SCU and higher specialist courts and their liquidation, as well as the participation of these courts’ judges in the contest for SC judges, the CCU set aside a small aspect of these issues relating to the SCU and its judges, and found these provisions to be unconstitutional in part. In particular, the CCU referred to the unconstitutionality of SCU “liquidation” and the right of SCU judges to participate in the SC contest – as, in its opinion, “the body specified in the Constitution was renamed” and SCU judges should have been transferred to the SC, as “there is no difference between the legal status of judges of the Supreme Court of Ukraine and judges of the Supreme Court”. It is interesting to note that, in parallel, the CCU confirmed the need for SCU judges to pass a qualification evaluation, albeit one based on a special procedure and criteria. The CCU did not develop this position further, so it is not clear what is meant by “special” or the “criteria” of such a procedure, beyond subparagraph 4 of paragraph 16 of the Transitional Provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine.1 In addition, as expected, given its previous practice, the CCU approached the issue of a differentiated approach to the calculation of a monthly allowance for judges depending on how well they performed in the qualification evaluation. The CCU noted that the establishment of “different approaches to the procedure for calculating lifetime monthly allowances for judges violates the status of judges and guarantees of their independence”, and it recognised this provision as unconstitutional.

The simplification of approaches and the absence in the final text of the in-depth analysis of the full range of issues faced by the CCU in this case caused six judges to write separate opinions expressing additional arguments or partial disagreement. For example, Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi spoke explicitly about the fallacy of the CCU’s methodology of constantly reducing the text of its analysis, which results in “a kind of ‘gap’ in the legal reasoning of the Constitutional Court”. To minimise the risk of an erroneous interpretation of the content of this decision, Judge Pervomaiskyi proposed, in particular, a clearer approach to solving legal problems concerning the liquidation of the SCU and the establishment of the SC. He stressed that the decision ignored the problem of termination and liquidation of the SCU as a constitutional body and legal entity of public law, and emphasised that it was not possible to go beyond the qualification-evaluation criteria established by the Constitution of Ukraine. Judge Ihor Slidenko, the rapporteur in the case, denied the entire basis of the CCU decision, seeing a continuation of the 2014 lustration discourse in the 2016 judicial reform, thus aimed at resetting the judicial system. In his opinion, the constitutional conflict lies in the way the SCU was transformed. Judge Serhiy Holovatyi argued that there were no legal grounds to find the provisions of Law 1402-VIII unconstitutional.[2] He stated that the SCU was not liquidated as a constitutional body, and that issues relating to the termination (liquidation) of the SCU as a legal entity “are not subject to constitutional regulation, and the fact that the legislator solved them by adopting an ordinary law cannot contradict the Constitution of Ukraine”. In addition, he referred to Clause 12 of the Transitional Provisions of the Constitution, which provides for the establishment of a new judicial system, emphasising that it is possible to clearly define a time reference for termination of the “old” SCU and commencement of activities of the “new” SC, and thus that there are no “legal grounds” for questioning the constitutionality of the provisions concerning termination of the SCU. Judge Holovatyi also disagreed with the position regarding the inalterability of the legal status of the SCU and found this status to be fundamentally new.

2. The decision regarding the attempt to carry out new judicial reform

2.1. Background

On 29 August 2019, President Volodymyr Zelensky submitted numerous draft laws to the new Ukrainian Parliament. Among them was draft law No.1008 “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine on the Judiciary and Status of Judges and Some Laws of Ukraine on Activities of Judicial Authorities”. Within a very short time the relevant law (Law No. 193-IX) was adopted and entered into force, establishing new rules regarding the structure and role of the High Council of Justice, and the new status and procedure for establishing the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine (HQCJU). It reduced the number of judges in the new SC and put in place a new procedure and new rules for judges’ disciplinary responsibility.

Already at the stage of the parliamentary procedure of adoption of the draft law, the High Council of Justice approved the “Advisory Opinion regarding Draft Law No. 1008” on 5 September 2019, providing thorough comments on it. On 16 September 2019, the Plenary Meeting of the Supreme Court (SC), in its opinion regarding the draft law, insisted that the proposed changes in the law would pose a significant risk to the independence of the judicial branch. Once the law was adopted, the SC went to the CCU to challenge the constitutionality of the provisions regarding the reduction in the number of SC judges; the reduction in judicial remuneration; the change in the number of members of the HQCJU; the creation of the Integrity and Ethics Commission and the scope of its competency; the simplification of procedures for holding judges disciplinarily responsible; and the change in the grounds and procedure for dismissing a member of the High Council of Justice.

2.2. Decision No.2-r/2020

In this decision, the CCU addressed the risks related to the independence of the judicial branch, which not only raised concerns among representatives of the judicial community and professional legal associations, but also became the subject of critical statements issued by representatives of Ukraine’s civil society, business community and international partners. The Venice Commission had issued a critical opinion, CDL-AD(2019)027, in which it underlined the strategic drawbacks and risks of Law 193-IX. Based, inter alia, on the principle of institutional continuity set out in Decision No.2-r/2020, the CCU defined a legislative reduction in the number of judges in the SC and technical issues related to the new “selection” of SC judges as an organisational tool, one that should be preceded by consultations between the President of Ukraine and the High Council of Justice. The CCU also confirmed its repeatedly stated position on the unconstitutionality of legislative attempts to “arbitrarily set or change the amount of remuneration for judges, using its powers as a tool to influence the judicial branch”.

On the questions of the HQCJU  the Court found that “no other body or institution is authorised to perform constitutional functions of selecting and evaluating judges, including the High Court of Justice” and it noted that changing the order of establishment and the number of members of the HQCJU “without introduction of an appropriate transition period has resulted in the suspension in implementation of constitutional functions”. This change was therefore declared unconstitutional. Turning to the Integrity Commission, the CCU found that its powers to control the activities of members of the High Council of Justice and SC judges “have no constitutional basis”.

The CCU carefully considered the grounds and procedure for holding judges disciplinarily responsible and agreed with the position of the SC that such changes are unconstitutional. The CCU stressed that they “do not provide for a reasonable, commensurate (proportionate) and predictable procedure of disciplinary proceedings against a judge, [or a] fair and transparent way of holding a judge disciplinarily responsible”.

The judges’ separate opinions included a number of critical remarks. Judge Oleksandr Kasminin drew attention to the participation of representatives of the international community in the establishment of the Integrity Commission in the context of “constitutional sovereignty”. Judge Ihor Slidenko emphasised the lack of analysis of the legitimate purpose of the amendments in the CCU’s decision, treating this as “legislative fraud” aimed at “hiding [the] true motives of the so-called ‘2019 judicial reform’”. Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi focused on the incomprehensibility of the motives and reasons for the hasty introduction of the disputed changes and the absence of proper public and professional hearings, or of proper communication between the branches of government. He drew attention to what he considers to be an artificial concept of “choice of judges” which was meant to replace the constitutionally defined concept of “selection of judges” and be used to reduce the number of SC judges. Judge Vasyl Lemak outlined the difference in approaches to changes in the judicial sector, making a comparison between the 2016 reform, which was carried out both at the constitutional and the legislative level, and the 2019 reform, which proposed changes only at the legislative level and “was not implemented in practice”. He also pointed out that there was no justified reason for the 2019 reform, and discussed a violation of the constitutional procedure of the legislative initiative as attempting to reorganise the SC. Finally, he offered other arguments regarding the violation of the principle of institutional continuity and integrity by the Parliament when terminating the powers of HQCJU members.


In the first case to deal with the 2016 judicial reform, the CCU did not fully seize the opportunity to provide proper answers to the deep-rooted constitutional problem of interaction between various branches of government during the implementation of strategic reforms. The judges’ need to compromise, for the sake of a positive vote did not allow for deeper answers on some questions. The vote is therefore somewhat formalistic and overly positivistic. By contrast, in the second case, concerning the judicial reform attempted in 2019, one can agree with Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi, who described the Court’s approach as a “not ideal but quite conscious and necessary attempt” to stand up for judicial independence, eliminate risks to the autonomy of the judicial branch, and provide constitutional guarantees for the functioning of the judiciary.[3]

The general impression from the two decisions analysed is that the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, despite some shortcomings, is gradually moving towards its true role as a constitutional arbiter, as set out in the 1996 Constitution of Ukraine and emphasised by the 2016 judicial reform.

[1] As rightly noted by Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi in his separate opinion to Decision No.4-r/2020, “as a subject of legislative initiative, the President of Ukraine did not qualify these changes to the legislation as a ‘judicial reform’”, and Judge Ihor Slidenko in his Votum Separatum to the same decision referred to “manipulations aimed at legislative changes” within “the so-called 2019 judicial reform”.

[2] It is noteworthy that the text of the dissenting opinion of Judge Serhiy Holovatyi, in which he analysed arguments presented in the constitutional motion and determined that they were groundless, extends to 54 pages, while Decision 2-r/2020 itself contains only 18 pages.

[3] A separate opinion of Judge Oleh Pervomaiskyi in Decision No.4-r/2020.

Photo credit: Maria Osipowa/Flickr

DRI в Україні шукає тренерів для підготовки майбутніх фахівців з держуправління

Democracy Reporting International в Україні шукає тренерів для підготовки майбутніх фахівців з держуправління

Назва посади: тренер для «Молодь – потенціал регіону! Твори зміни сам. 2020.»

Період співпраці: короткострокове завдання з лютого по квітень включно, 2020 року

Місто проведення Програм: Львів

Контекст та мета програми:

Democracy Reporting International (Офіс зі сприяння демократії, DRI) є безсторонньою, незалежною, неприбутковою організацією, зареєстрованою в Берліні (Німеччина). DRI сприяє ефективній та інформативній участі громадян у політичних процесах, розвитку підзвітності державних органів та зміцненню демократичних інституцій.

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) у партнерстві з Центром Перспективних Ініціатив та Досліджень (ЦПІД), Львівською облдержадміністрацією та обласною радою розпочинає другу програму навчання молоді основам державного управління та внутрішнім особливостям роботи регіональної влади.

Метою Програми є підтримка потенціалу молоді на регіональному рівні шляхом розвитку необхідних компетенцій/знань та базових елементів/практик держслужби задля залучення їх після навчання до роботи в органах виконавчої влади, зокрема в облдержадміністраціях та меріях.

Обраних спеціалістів буде включено до бази тренерів, їх запрошуватимуть до виконання конкретних завдань протягом впровадження Програми.

Обов’язки та відповідальність:

  • У координації з організаторами Програми підготовка та проведення тренінгу (тривалість в середньому 1-2 дні) для українців/українок віком до 35 років на мінімум одну із наступних тем:

Система органів державної влади та їх взаємодія;

Децентралізація та реформа місцевого самоврядування;

Нормативно-правові акти та аналітичні документи в органах влади та місцевого самоврядування; підготовка листів, аналітичних документів, довідок на державній службі; Європейська інтеграція в регіонах. Імплементація Угоди про асоціацію на місцях;

Міжнародний досвід державного управління;

Комунікація на держаній службі, інструменти діалогу влади з громадськістю;

Боротьба з дезінформацією; softhard skills на держслужбі.

  • Тісно співпрацювати з командою DRI в Києві та Берліні, партнерами Програми
  • Підготувати роздаткові матеріали для учасників Програми
  • Підготувати короткий звіт (зразок буде надано DRI) по проведеному тренінгу, який включатиме оцінку тренінгу як такого, відгуки учасників та рекомендації для такого роду активностей в майбутньому.

Необхідна кваліфікація та досвід:

  • Вища освіта зі спеціальностей у сфері демократичного управління та розвитку, наприклад, політологія, право, міжнародні відносини, державне управління
  • Щонайменше п’ять років досвіду у сфері державного управління чи дотичних сферах
  • Перевірений досвід проведння воркшопів, тренінгів та лекцій
  • Відмінні знання поточних політичних та правових реформ в Україні та державного управління

Останній день подання документів: 18 лютого 2020 (опівночі за середньоєвропейським часом).

Просимо зацікавлених кандидатів надсилати своє резюме, мотиваційний лист з інформацією про тему та зміст тренінгу, який ви хочете провести та чому, його очікувані результати, а також рекомендації експертів (за наявності) на електронну адресу: [email protected] , вказавши в темі листа Trainer for DRI Programme’.

З огляду на кількість заявок, які зазвичай надходять до DRI, до співбесіди будуть запрошені тільки кандидати, що увійшли до короткого списку. З потенційними тренерами можуть зв’язатися до завершення терміну подання заявок.


Democracy Reporting International оголошує набір на другу Програму

Democracy Reporting International оголошує набір на другу Програму

«Молодь – потенціал регіону! Твори зміни сам. 2020»

Democracy Reporting International (Офіс зі сприяння демократії, DRI) є безсторонньою, незалежною, неприбутковою організацією, зареєстрованою в Берліні (Німеччина). DRI сприяє ефективній та інформативній участі громадян у політичних процесах, розвитку підзвітності державних органів та зміцненню демократичних інституцій.

Democracy Reporting International (DRI) у партнерстві з Центром Перспективних Ініціатив та Досліджень (ЦПІД), Львівською облдержадміністрацією та обласною радою, розпочинає другу програму навчання молоді основам державного управління та внутрішнім особливостям роботи регіональної влади.

Така Програма була успішно реалізована у Львівській області в 2019 році. 19 молодих людей з Львівської та Луганської областей пройшли 4-місячне стажування у різних підрозділах Львівської обласної ради та Львівської обласної державної адміністрації, відвідали 5 тренінгових сесій, публічні дискусії у Києві та Львові, а також здійснили навчальний візит в одну з об’єднаних територіальних громад України. Після завершення Програми 5 учасників успішно пройшли конкурс та почали працювати у відповідних департаментах.

Про Програму 2020:

Завдання програми – підтримка потенціалу молоді на регіональному рівні шляхом розвитку необхідних компетенцій/знань та базових елементів/практик держслужби задля залучення їх після навчання до роботи в органах виконавчої влади, зокрема в ОТГ, облдержадміністрації та облраді.

  • 2-місячне навчання у Програмі включатиме 12 одноденних інтерактивних тренінгів, дискусій, воркшопів, які проходитимуть у Львові (під час вихідних днів (субота-неділя), впродовж березня-квітня 2020р).
  • Учасники Програми матимуть можливість пройти двомісячне стажування (березень-квітень 2020) в Львівській облдержадміністрації та облраді.
  • Учасники отримають стипендію від Democracy Reporting International (за умови повноцінної участі в стажуванні та навчанні).

Для участі у Програмі будуть відібрані 16 осіб з Львівської області. Гендерні умови – 50/50 (чоловіки/жінки), 16 учасників (оплачується проїзд до та з Львова, а також при потребі проживання).

Під час тренінгів учасники будуть забезпечені роздатковими матеріалами та харчуванням.

Навчання є безоплатним, відбір проходить на конкурсній основі!!!

Після проходження Програми учасники:

  • розумітимуть особливості процесів в органах державної влади, зокрема в контексті європейської інтеграції, їх взаємодію та вплив на політику в регіоні;
  • знатимуть як на місцевому рівні приймаються та виконуються управлінські рішення;
  • покращать свої здібності в комунікації з медіа, партнерами; ознайомляться з можливостями співпраці в трикутнику влада-громадськість-журналісти;
  • знатимуть як успішно розвивати/реалізувати проекти для області/міста/села/громади;
  • отримають стипендію впродовж свого стажування;
  • поспілкуються та налагодять контакти з практиками – представниками органів державної влади різних рівнів;
  • отримають експертний супровід/допомогу під час стажування;

Вимоги до учасників:

  • вік: від 20 до 35 років;
  • мати вищу освіту чи навчатися на старших курсах (4-5) ВУЗ;
  • можливість активної участі в усіх тренінгах Програми;
  • можливість стажуватись в Львівській облдержадміністрації та облраді впродовж березня-квітня;
  • володіння англійською мовою, знання німецької та польської мов вважатиметься перевагою;
  • перевага віддаватиметься кандидатам(кам), які не працюють(вали) в органах виконавчої влади.

Аплікаційна форма:

Якщо вас зацікавила участь у Програмі та ви відповідаєте усім вищенаведеним критеріям — заповніть до 18 лютого (включно) 2020р. онлайн-анкету.

Про точне місце та час проведення тренінгу відібрані учасники будуть повідомлені завчасно.

За додатковою інформацією звертайтесь:

Мар’яна Кузьо-Рюче, Старша проектна менеджерка DRI в Україні, [email protected]



Participatory Budgeting in Ukraine

Executive Summary

Decentralisation of power takes place in two directions: vertical – when some powers of a central government are delegated to local authorities; and horizontal – when citizens themselves take part in local decision-making.[1] This model well illustrates the process of decentralisation in Ukraine, which has been implemented since 2015-16. The autonomy of communities and cities at the vertical level stands for the right of local authorities to decide by themselves how to allocate budget funds. Before the Law ‘On Voluntary Amalgamation of Local Communities’ was adopted in 2015, budgetary and financial capacities of communities were extremely low. For example, before the adoption of a law in 2014 (on Amendments to the Budget Code of Ukraine concerning the Reform of Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations), which came into force in January 2017, personal income tax, which now ranks first in replenishing local budgets[2], used to be transferred not to the local budget but the national one.

Horizontal decentralisation is quite new for Ukraine. August 2015 can be considered as its starting point when working groups were established in Chernihiv, Cherkasy and Poltava city councils to develop regulations on city participatory budgets. In practice, vertical decentralisation is measured not only by powers but also by the capacity of local authorities to transparently manage budget funds and effectively use this resource for their community development. With the development of a decentralisation policy in Ukraine, it became possible for communities to obtain such financial capacity. At the same time, horizontal decentralisation is a more multifaceted and autonomous phenomenon, which demonstrates the capacity of each member of the community to directly participate in working out and making decisions, which influence the harmonious development of a village or city in question.

To understand the depth of horizontal decentralisation and to determine whether it is real, it is necessary to pay attention to such parameters as:

  • availability of efficient and binding participatory tools (local initiative, participatory budget);
  • possibility for residents to manage financial resources;
  • possibility for residents to freely discuss and share thoughts and views.

Given the fact that the institution of local referenda, which was to become the basis for emerging horizontal decentralisation, is still not on the agenda, public budgeting can become one way for each member of the local community to directly participate in local affairs

This paper analyses whether the participatory budget tool has created preconditions necessary for the development of horizontal decentralisation in Ukraine. Based on the results of this study, the authors of the paper conclude that public budgeting (PB) tools have significantly contributed to the development of horizontal decentralisation in Ukraine. This conclusion rests on the following: (1) for the first time since 2015-16, local communities have begun to implement participatory budget programmes, allowing inhabitants, based on voting results, to identify and propose projects to authorities that will be implemented from the local budget.; (2) in 2019, residents in a number of communities could participate in the decision on how to spend a total of about UAH 590 million of local budget funds. This amount is only 0.1% of all local budgets, but it is a start (the resource of all local budgets and subventions is UAH 573.1 billion). In addition, the amount allocated from local budgets for participatory budgeting is 0.4-0.5% of local budgets of those villages, towns and cities where the participatory budget was put in place in 2019. This percentage of allocated funds for participatory budgeting is in line with international standards and the best European practices.


Read the full briefing paper here (in Ukrainian).


[1] Decentralisation of Public Authority: Experience of European Countries and Prospects of Ukraine / [O.M. Boryslavska, I.B. Zaverukha, A.M. Shkolyk and others]; Centre for Political and Legal Reforms. – K., O.M. Moskalenko, 2012 – 212 pages,

Decentralisation of Power: Agenda for the Medium Term. Analytical report. Authors: Y. A. Zhalilo, O.V. Shevchenko, V.V. Romanova, etc. National Institute for Strategic Studies. – K: 2019. – 115 pages.

[2] ‘Traditionally, the largest share in the revenues of local budgets is the income from collecting personal income tax – UAH 35.9 billion, or 59.3% of the total income of the general fund of local budgets’. Read more at: