The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine has transformed the international environment in a way rarely witnessed since the end of the Cold War. It has mobilized the entire democratic world, while also underlining the importance of a free and independent Ukraine for the future of global security.

With Russia’s invasion now approaching the two-year mark, it is increasingly clear that the outcome of the war will shape the geopolitical climate for decades to come. Ukraine is set to play a key role not only in the stability of Eastern Europe, but also in terms of global food and energy security.

If it is to meet the historic challenges that lie ahead, Ukraine must be able to defend itself. This will require substantial and sustained military aid from the country’s partners. In addition to this immediate focus on strengthening security, it is also vital for Ukraine to continue pursuing reforms in order to counter corruption, bolster national institutions, and consolidate the country’s democracy.

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Nothing on Ukraine’s reform agenda is more important than judicial reform. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that Ukraine’s future prosperity and international position depend on the effective reform of the country’s legal system. This is well understood in Kyiv’s corridors of power. Against the backdrop of Russia’s ongoing invasion, Ukraine continues to work with international partners to implement effective rule of law reforms.

Russia’s Combat Losses in Ukraine Up by 1,100 in Past Day, Per Kyiv Government
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Russia’s Combat Losses in Ukraine Up by 1,100 in Past Day, Per Kyiv Government

Official Russian losses according to Ukrainian Armed Forces (AFU) General Staff, as reported to the Ukrinform state news agency. Human casualties include those killed and wounded, unable to fight.

Judicial reform has been consistently close to the top of the government’s agenda ever since President Zelenskyy was first elected in 2019, and has remained so in the current wartime environment. Progress has included fulfilling the conditions set by the European Commission regarding the composition of the High Council of Justice and the High Qualification Commission of Judges. Changes have also been introduced to the selection procedure for Constitutional Court judges in line with Venice Commission recommendations.

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As part of efforts to counter the threat of politically motivated appointments within the Ukrainian justice system, Ukraine has taken the unprecedented step of involving the country’s international partners in the selection of members to serve on reformed judicial bodies. For example, selection committees have featured the participation of senior British and American officials with extensive experience in the UK and US justice systems. Following months of consultations and negotiations with the Venice Commission and the European Commission, legislation has also been adopted to create an advisory group of experts including international representatives charged with selecting potential judges for Ukraine’s Constitutional Court.

Advancing Ukraine’s unprecedented judicial reform agenda requires a careful balance between achieving meaningful change, protecting the rights of every Ukrainian citizen, and maintaining maximum transparency. Measures are in place to ensure Ukraine’s international partners are informed of any new initiatives, with the G7 group of ambassadors paying particularly close attention to developments and offering positive assessments of recent progress.

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While wartime advances in Ukraine’s judicial reform agenda are encouraging, many major challenges remain. For example, there are currently almost two thousand vacancies for judges in Ukraine. It is absolutely critical to fill these vacancies with the best candidates, who must be subjected to rigorous and competitive selection procedures that scrutinize both their professionalism and their integrity. The future of Ukraine’s judicial system depends on it.

As they defend their statehood and national identity, Ukrainians are acutely aware that they are writing a fresh chapter in the country’s history. Together with an international coalition of partner countries, they are building a new Ukraine that is already emerging as a trusted and valued member of the democratic world. A firm commitment to establishing the rule of law is absolutely foundational to this process.

Despite the uniquely challenging circumstances created by Russia’s ongoing invasion, there is currently reason for cautious optimism regarding the further reform of the Ukrainian legal system. For arguably the first time in the history of independent Ukraine, all the necessary elements are now in place to achieve lasting judicial reform. These include the requisite political will on the part of both president and parliament, along with the active participation of Ukrainian civil society and expert support from the country’s international partners. This helps make continued reform progress possible, even amid Europe’s biggest armed conflict since World War II.

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Denys Maslov is a member of the Ukrainian Parliament with the Servant of the People party and head of the Ukrainian Parliament’s Committee on Legal Policy. Oleksandr Vasiuk is a member of the Ukrainian Parliament with the Servant of the People party and a member of the Ukrainian Parliament’s Committee on Legal Policy.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

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