For over a year the experts of the EU-funded Project “Support to Justice Sector Reforms in Ukraine” are helping Ukraine in developing the Justice Sector Reform Strategy for 2015-2019, which also outlines the necessary legal reforms.
These important reforms largely determine the attractiveness of Ukrainian market for foreign investment, and consequently jobs and wellbeing of millions of Ukrainians.
Our conversation with Dr. Virgilius Valančius, the Team leader of the Project, highlights many other practical aspects of the new judiciary reforms.
Your project is working in Ukraine for one year already. In your opinion, what are the main problems of Ukraine’s justice sector & what should be solved first of all?
I believe that at present the main problemisthe lack ofpublic confidence in theinstitutionsthat make up thejustice sectorinUkraine. This problemprevents them frommoving forward.Therefore,in the new strategyofthe entire justicesystem of Ukrainesteps onrestoring confidence in thejudiciary, prosecution, advocacy and law enforcement will be presented.
Another problem is the lack of a systematic approach to the reform of the justice sector in Ukraine. We are witnessing the lack of coordination and cooperation between institutions representing the justice sector. Now we are helping in consolidating not only the work of Ukrainian authorities in this direction, but the efforts of all donors who contributed to the reform of the justice sector in Ukraine.
Your Project assisted with developing the Ukraine Judiciary Development Strategy (UJDS), which was presented on June 19. What reforms does this strategy envisage? Have Ukraine already started implementing them?
Indeed, one of the main goals of our project is to assist the national institutions in developing a strategy of the judicial system of Ukraine. This work aims at helping to reform the judiciary, prosecutors, law enforcement and the legal profession.
Following the recent Congress of Judges of Ukraine, the Council of Judges was instructed to further develop a reform strategy for the judiciary. In view of this a working group was established, which includes not only the judges but also the Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutor General’s Office and other agencies, but most importantly, – it includes civil society. It should be noted that civil society makes a significant contribution to the development of this strategy. Here we are actively cooperating with the Centre for Political and Legal Reforms.
Our results on elaboration of the UJDS, as well as other specialized working groups will be presentedto the Justice Sector Reforms Coordination Council (RCC) under the President’s Administration inOctober.Thepresentedplan of necessary steps in the judiciary and other branches of the government have to takewill be part of basic Justice Sector Reform Strategy (JSRS) for 2015-2019, which is to bedevelopedby the end of 2014.
Will ordinary Ukrainians feel the impact of your project? If so, in what way?
The Justice Sector Reform Strategy will serve as a sector reform roadmap for the actors involved in justice sector as well as legislative and executive powers. They are guided by a strategy to improve the efficiency of the sector, its transparency and effective anti-corruption measures. This is the main goal, on which the EU-funded project is focusing. These changes are expected by the citizens, and they are needed to achieve the European standards aspired by Ukraine.
For the successful implementation of the strategy by all branches of government a lot of homework is to be done. Once again- we need concerted efforts of all branches of government, as the implementation of the strategy will require the adoption of newlaws and constitutional amendments to bring the justice sector of Ukraine to European standards.
For our part we will support and facilitate coordination and sustainable development in all sectors, representing justice system – a judiciary, prosecutors, law enforcement agencies and advocacy.
Your project declares objectives, which totally correspond with the slogans of Ukrainian Maidan. Although these are long-awaited changes, no considerable improvements are observed in these spheres over the last few months. Do you see some positive dynamic? Could you name some examples?
Let’s be frank – reforms in the justice sectorare not made overnight. Moreover, their results cannot be felt immediately. As I have stated before, this requires some changes in the law and the Constitution.We understand that this process takes time. The executive and legislative branches of government are a complex mechanism, facing opposite views and interests.Therefore, one of the objectives of the project isto allow all participants of the process to be heard. From the beginning, we actively involve all members ofthe justice sectors o that they can voice their vision of future reforms. European experts are helping them by presenting the best European practices. We see the examples of Eastern European countries, which, same as Ukraine went through the experience of authoritarian rule, more understandable to our Ukrainian partners.
I can note a positive trend – all actors of the justice sector in Ukraine are aware of the need for change. Personally I see positive attitude within the leadership of the Supreme Court, Council of Judges of Ukraine. With the EU Project and other donor support, they are already trying to reach the optimal path of development in the sector, which will allow Ukraine to be close to European values.
Does your project envisage approximation of Ukraine’s legislation to the EU standards?
The main objective of our project is to create justice sector in Ukraine, whose work will be based solely on the rule of law. This is, in turn, one of the basic principles of the European Union. Therefore, we expect that entire justice sector Ukraine will defend the rights and freedoms of all its citizens. Reformed justice system will also help Ukraine become more attractive to the foreign investments which are so essential today. The ratification of the Association Agreement with the EU by itself does not attract investment. Investors, for which today both developed and developing countries are competing very much, are analyzing the investment climate carefully before stepping in. Effectiveness, transparency and predictability of justice sector are some of the components of the business climate.
Which EU country is the closest to Ukraine in terms of similar problems in justice sector (faced now or before)?
Ukraine and the countries of Eastern Europe were part of one system almost 20 years ago. In this respect, the experience of Poland and Lithuania are very close to Ukrainian one. Both countries went through a difficult period of reform in the 1990s. As you can see, the reforms have ledto the fact that Poland and Lithuania today are the members of the EU.
However, we are not trying to copy the justice sector reforms of the abovementioned countries. Within the project “Support to justice sector reforms in Ukraine” we are collecting comparative experiences and best examples of France, Germany and other EU countries. Based on these experiences the key experts of the project will help in developing the best model for Ukraine.