After gaining independence in 1991, following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, Ukraine began drafting a new constitution. The Constitution of Independent Ukraine was adopted on June 28, 1996. This constitution and its adoption established a legal foundation of the independent Ukraine. It was considered progressive in terms of human rights and freedoms for Ukrainians.
The history of the constitutional process in Ukraine goes back to Kievan Rus. It was partly based on the ancient Ukrainian law «Ruska Pravda» and later «Lithuanian Statute», the acts of the Bohdan Khmelnytsky`s Cossack state period «Articles of March» or «Articles of Zaporizhia Army».
The first Ukrainian Constitution is considered to be the Pylyp Orlyk Constitution, which was adopted on April 5, 1710. It was a contract between the Cossack Hetman Pylyp Orlyk and the Cossacks, which defined the rights and duties of all members of troops. According to the historians, the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk is one of the first European constitutions.
Another Ukrainian constitution was the Constitution of the Ukrainian National Republic (UNR), adopted on 29 April 1918. It was emphasized that all power in the Republic «is derived from the people», and its supreme body is the General Council.
In Soviet times, when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, four constitutions were adopted successively, of 1925, 1929, 1937 and 1976. Those legal instruments reflect different stages of the Soviet system and were based on the pattern of the Constitution of the USSR and its ideological ground.
After adoption by the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian SSR of the Act of Independence of Ukraine on August 24, 1991 and its corresponding approval by the nation at the National Ukrainian referendum on December 1, 1991, Ukraine was recognized by most countries as a sovereign state and a full subject of international relations.
In 2003, Ukraine initiated a constitutional reform, which resulted in the adoption by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on December 8, 2004 (403 votes in favour) the Law of Ukraine on the Amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine, that expanded the powers of the Ukrainian Parliament. However, on September 30, 2010, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine abolished the effect of this law.
Constitutional reform was renewed in February 2014. In particular, on February 22, 2014, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Resolution on the text of the Constitution of Ukraine in version of June 28, 1996 with changes and supplements, made by the respective laws of Ukraine of December 8, 2004 No. 2222-IV, of February 1, 2011 No. 2952-VI and of September 19, 2013 No. 586-VII».
Today, constitutional reform is one of the cornerstones of the reform agenda in Ukraine and one of the priorities of the Ukrainian state. Work with the amendments to the Constitution is based on the rule of law, openness and transparency. The process of preparing amendments to the Constitution concerns primarily the decentralization of state power and significant empowerment of local communities.
The Concept of reforming local government and territorial diversification of power in Ukraine was approved at a meeting of the Government of Ukraine on April 1, 2014.
Key changes to the Constitution of Ukraine concern Section IX «Administrative Division» and Section XI «Local Government». Also, some amendments were suggested to Chapter IV «Parliament of Ukraine», V «President of Ukraine» and VI «Cabinet of Ministers. Other Executive Authorities».
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko during the first session of the Constitutional Commission stressed Ukraine was, is and will be a unitary state. The process of constitutional amendments is a manifestation of public consensus.
The main priorities for the Commission are the elaboration of constitutional amendments on power decentralization, improvement of constitutional principles of justice and regulation of constitutional rights, freedoms and duties.
The adoption of appropriate amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine will ensure the creation of a proper legal framework for the approval of a number of legislative acts necessary for the implementation of the local government reform. It is also aimed at approaching of Ukraine to the European Union standards and legislature.
Ukrainian Constitution Day has been a public holiday since 1996.