On June 23, the European Council confirmed the acceptance of Ukraine as a candidate for EU membership. But attaining membership has conditions attached, legal reform and battling corruption being priorities.

As the jubilation in Ukraine over its achievement of candidate status continues, it is worth bearing in mind the tasks and hard work that lie ahead to actually acquire membership.

Brussels has elaborated its preconditions in a list of seven blocks of reforms.   They require substantial progress in the following areas:

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(1) reform of the Constitutional Court

(2) continuing judicial reform

(3) anti-corruption, including the appointment of the head of the SAP (Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office)

(4) anti-money laundering

(5) the implementation of the anti-oligarchic law

(6) harmonization of audiovisual legislation with European legislation

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(7) change legislation on national minorities.

The Constitutional Court and judicial reform are first on this list. Ukraine has to appoint professional judges to the Constitutional Court and introduce a credible system for the pre-selection of judges.

Reform of the Constitutional Сourt in Ukraine is long overdue

Problems with the Constitutional Court began in late October 2020. Then, the court abolished the electronic declaration system, which dealt a blow to anti-corruption reform.

It caused a political scandal: due to this decision of the judges, Ukraine risked having severe problems with international partners, almost to the point of cooperation with the IMF being stopped and the visa-free regime with the EU being abolished.

President Volodymyr Zelensky tried to dissolve the Constitutional Court through the parliament, but deputies had doubts about the legitimacy of this initiative. Nevertheless, he argued that that such a move would prevent other dubious decisions of the Constitutional Court.

In 2021 the president fired head of the Constitutional Court Oleksandr Tupitsky, overturning Viktor Yanukovych’s 2013 decree.

In March 2022, it became known that Tupitsky illegally left Ukraine. According to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), he left Ukraine without going through border and customs control and checking documents granting the right to travel abroad.

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Aleksandr Tupitsky in Vienna – March (Source: Interfax)

The investigation recorded Tupitsky’s stay in Austria, in the center of Vienna, next to a car registered for his wife.

On April 4, the SBI launched a pre-trial investigation into Tupitsky’s illegal crossing of the border.

Cleansing the Сonstitutional Сourt of unscrupulous judges clearly remains a priority. Implementing the EU requirements for the election of judges of the constitutional court will enable Ukraine to remove the constitutional crisis in which found itself before Russia attacked in force.

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