Ukraine parliament amends constitution to require EU, NATO integration

8 February 2019

Ukraine’s parliament voted on Feb. 7 to amend the Ukrainian Constitution to require the nation’s integration into the European Union and NATO as part of the nations’ “irreversible Euro-Atlantic course,” according to the legislation. “The legislation’s approval widens and deepens Ukraine’s cooperation with the EU and NATO until the achievement of full membership and enhances Ukraine’s national security, the bill said. The measure drew 334 votes, compared to the 300-vote majority needed to amend the constitution. Five of the parliament’s six factions voted in favor, while none of the 38 Russian-oriented MPs of the Opposition Bloc offered their support.


Embroiled in a tight election campaign, President Petro Poroshenko was sure to be in the session hall to witness the vote and commend parliament afterwards. “Today is a historic day in which Ukraine’s foreign policy orientation towards the EU and NATO was secured in the Constitution,” he said after the vote. “NATO is not only about military security, but also the safety of the citizen, safety on the streets and the rule of law.”


Zenon Zawada: It’s no coincidence that this is the latest initiative by the presidential administration to surface during the election campaign, along with the criminal conviction of former President Viktor Yanukovych and the creation of a canonical Orthodox Church. This legislation falls fully in line with the president’s strategy of uniting the country behind his Euro-Atlantic integration rhetoric in an “us-against-them” format, casting the Russian-oriented forces as the opposition. The true opposition is the populist forces led by the president’s contenders, Yulia Tymoshenko and Volodymyr Zelenskiy.


Ultimately, this legislation is symbolic and essentially meaningless on many levels. With Crimea and Donbas occupied by Russia, there is no threat of a Russian-oriented president or parliamentary majority coming to power. Meanwhile, the return of Crimea and Donbas would imply either the end of the Russian Federation, or Russia’s capitulation before the Western powers.


The legitimate threat to undermine Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration is Ukrainwe’s fragmentation, which Russia is actively working towards by backing separatist cells in the southeastern regions. Meanwhile, political pundits on Russian political talk shows continue to engage in daily calls for their military to “liberate” the “eternally Russian lands” of Ukraine’s southeastern regions from the “fascist regime” in Kyiv.


Making EU and NATO integration constitutional requirements does nothing to inspire politicians to approve the required legislation and implement the necessary measures to make this a reality. Indeed, the resistance of the very MPs that describe themselves as pro-Western is a bigger threat than a Russian-oriented regime coming to power. In many cases, they’re only willing to pursue measures when it’s absolutely necessary, such as fulfilling conditions to receive Western loan money. If anything, this vote confirms that parliament has the votes to approve symbolic measures, but doesn’t have the will to pursue measures that tangibly bring about Euro-Atlantic integration, such as enabling open-list voting, prosecuting MPs for alleged crimes, shielding Western NGOs from income declaration requirements, approving a Council of Europe convention enhancing public access to state documents, and launching a farmland market, among many other measures rejected in recent years.


This amendment also won’t affect the willingness of NATO or the EU to accept Ukraine into their respective organizations. Judging by the anti-globalist trend sweeping through European powers such as Great Britain, France and Italy, it’s not even clear what the European Union will look like when Ukraine is ready to join, which won’t be any earlier than a decade.

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