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Zelensky signs law changing constitutional court selection procedure

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk August 18, 2023 9:34 AM 2 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky in his office in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Presidential Office's press service)
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President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Aug. 17 that he had signed a law changing how Constitutional Court judges are chosen, which is necessary to launch EU membership talks.

In his evening video address, Zelensky said the law "guarantees transparent, professional, and honest selection of the Constitutional Court judges."

"Our state is one more step closer to joining the European Union," he added.

The reform of the Constitutional Court, which has been entangled in corruption scandals and controversies, is one of the seven recommendations outlined by the European Commission as conditions for Ukraine's accession to the EU.

The first version of the law, signed by Zelensky on Dec. 20, ignored the Venice Commission's recommendations, failing to give foreign experts a key role in assessing the integrity of candidates for Constitutional Court jobs.

Critics argued that the bill would enable the Presidential Office to handpick loyalists and fully control the Constitutional Court. The European Commission urged Kyiv to increase the number of experts who would approve or reject the judge candidates from six to seven, ensuring that the seventh expert is foreign.

Oleg Sukhov: Ukrainian kleptocrats use war to entrench corruption, with Western experts as facade
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in the op-ed section are those of the authors. Oleg Sukhov is a staff writer at the Kyiv Independent. He has been covering the judicial corruption and judicial reforms in Ukraine since 2014. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine was a wake-up call for

On July 27, Ukraine's parliament approved the new bill changing the selection procedure. It gave international experts a deciding vote on judging a justice candidate's integrity and competence, which was praised by the Venice Commission.

However, the European advisory body regretted that its key suggestion to add a deadlock-breaking seventh member to the six-person expert group involved in the judge selection was not followed. Under the new law, the expert panel will still include three representatives of the Ukrainian government and three foreign experts.

Ukraine's Constitutional Court has long been a controversial body, which has struck down multiple important anti-corruption reforms, a number of which were later brought back.

President Volodymyr Zelensky suspended and removed the court's chairman in 2021, calling his tenure a threat to Ukraine's national security.

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