Ukraine’s law-and-order system is to be fully reformed, according to a plan announced yesterday by President Volodymyr Zelensky, as Ukraine seeks to meet requirements for European Union (EU) membership.

Zelensky spoke about the plan for the system’s reform on Thursday evening during his nightly national televised address. However, no details of the plan have been released thus far.

“Today, I approved a comprehensive strategic plan for reforming our law enforcement system, [including] all law enforcement agencies and the prosecutor’s office,” Zelensky said.

“To put it simply, we must provide such a system of guaranteeing justice and law and order for our country, which will correspond to our goal of the rapid accession of Ukraine to the EU.

“It adds to our readiness to realize this goal, and what is no less important, we guarantee the foundations of a new social contract,” Zelensky said.

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Zelensky’s public statement about reforming Ukraine’s law enforcement system comes days after the May 9 visit of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyenn to Kyiv to mark Europe Day.

During von der Leyenn’s visit, Zelensky stressed his country’s desire to join the EU and stated that “the time has come to remove the artificial political uncertainty in the relations between Ukraine and the EU.”

“The time has come to take a positive decision on the opening of negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU,” Zelensky added.

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The trip comes after Germany announced it was sending an additional Patriot air defense system to Ukraine after pleas from Kyiv for its Western backer to urgently help foil Russian attacks.

In 2022, in the wake of the full-scale Russian invasion, Ukraine applied for and received EU candidate status. However, when formal accession talks will or can begin remains unclear, as Brussels has made them conditional on the fulfillment of several domestic policy reform requirements for Ukraine.  

During her Kyiv visit, von der Leyenn did not comment on a timeframe or the extent to which Ukraine has or hasn’t met the EU’s requirements thus far, but publicly said that “work needs to continue” in relation to them

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In late June 2022, Ukraine was formally granted member candidate status for the EU. As part of the process of being considered for membership, the EU has put down seven requirements for Ukraine:

1.    reform of Ukraine’s Constitutional Court;

2.    continuation of judicial reform;

3.    anti-corruption, including the appointment of the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office

4.    anti-money laundering provisions;

5.    implementation of an anti-oligarchic law, including recommendations of the Venice Commission;

6.    harmonization of audio-visual legislation with European standards, and;

7.    change in legislation on national minorities.

 Depending on its content and scope, a reform of the law-and-order system could address several of the EU’s requirements.

An analysis released on May 4 by Ukrainian civil sector NGOs including PACT, ANTS, Transparency International and the New Europe Centre – as funded by USAID/Engage – found that Ukraine is scoring 6.8 out of 10 in meeting the EU’s requirements. This is up from 5.8 in the preceding analysis released in January.

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Ukraine’s ‘weakest’ area of performance against the EU’s requirements is in the reform of its Constitutional Court, according to the undersigned NGOs.

 

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