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Ukraine’s parliament avoids implementation of Minsk agreements

February 02, 2016, 9:49 UTC+3 KIEV

Last week, the Verkhovna Rada closed its autumn session without approving amendments to the constitution that would grant a special status to the Donbass region of Ukraine

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© Nikolay Lavarenko/TASS

KIEV, February 2. / TASS /. The aspects of the Minsk agreements implementation are not on the agenda of the spring session of Ukraine’s parliament due to open on Tuesday.

Last week, the Verkhovna Rada closed its autumn session without approving amendments to the constitution that would grant a special status to the Donbass region of Ukraine.

Observers hoped that the lawmakers would open the new session discussing that issue. However, on the eve of the meeting none of the leaders of the conciliatory council, parliamentary factions and heads of committees mentioned decentralization.

Under the current rules until recently, amendments to the constitution were to be taken at two different sessions of the parliament that follow one after another.

In the first reading, the amendments were passed on August 31 last year at the extraordinary session of the Verkhovna Rada.

In theory, they could have received the approval of the constitutional majority at a regular session that ended on February 1.

But, according to the lawmakers, the parliament failed to gather the required 300 votes. After that the deputies, mostly from the pro-presidential parties, appealed to the Constitutional Court, to legally justify an opportunity to move the vote to a new session.

A few days later, without waiting for the court’s decision, and perhaps not expecting it, the lawmakers changed the whole procedure of amendments, abolishing any time-frame. As a result, the Verkhovna Rada won the right to return to a constitutional reform at any time. However, so far neither the Parliament nor the official Kiev has shown such an intention.

Minsk plan blocked

The constitutional reform in Ukraine, which implies decentralization as a key component, is one of the fundamental requirements of the peaceful settlement principles, which were agreed in Minsk by the leaders of the Norman Four.

In accordance with the set of measures to implement the Minsk Agreement signed on February 12, 2015, the reform implies that Kiev is to adopt permanent legislation on the special status of the Donbass region.

In August, the Verkhovna Rada adopted the amendments to the Constitution regarding decentralization in the first reading. The amendments state that the aspects of local self-government in Donbass are determined "by a separate law."

However, these amendments were introduced not in the main text of the constitution but added to the so-called transitional provisions, which a priori determines their temporary nature. In addition, the proposed revision does not specify what "special law" means.

Donbass: a compromise

Recently, the envoys of the republics once again submitted a compromise version of the amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine.

The essence of the amendment is to ensure that the main text of the Constitution, its article 133, include, among other regions, "certain regions with special status, Donetsk and Luhansk regions."

Meanwhile, the position of Kiev, which does not want to carry out the Minsk peace plan, remains unchanged.

Actually Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko admitted recently that he would not seek the adoption and introduction of the law on the special status of Donbass.

Steinmeier’s Formula

In mid-January, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier came up with a formula, which may guarantee fulfilment of obligations by the parties of the Ukrainian conflict.

The German Foreign Minister suggested that a special status of Donbass in the law on elections should be specified as follows: "On election day in Donbass - on a temporary basis, and since the publication of the OSCE report on the election results - on a constant basis."Moscow supported Steinmeier’s idea.

At the last meeting in Minsk on January 27, Russia’s Plenipotentiary Representative in the Contact Group in Ukraine, Boris Gryzlov, proposed to link the vote on the constitution of Ukraine with the simultaneous adoption of these amendments to the law on the special status (of Donbasss), which will give it a permanent basis, "according to the Steinmeier formula."

Revision of the amendments "should be agreed upon within the Contact Group," the Russian envoy stressed.

Kiev’s unwillingness to discuss the constitutional reform with representatives of Donbass has been the main obstacle for the peace process.

Despite the fact that Minsk agreements clearly define the order and timing of all stages of the settlement, the official representatives of Ukraine insist that first they should receive control over the area of the Russian-Ukrainian border. Only after that they propose to hold elections in Donbass, and only then they promise to consider the status of region.

Meanwhile the peace plan approved by the Norman Four suggests the opposite course of action: making amendments to the constitution which would secure the permanent special status of the region, holding local elections and only than the transfer of control over the border to Kiev.

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