Academic journal article Trames

Ukraine's Constitutional 'Saga': Ukrainian Media Reflections of the Constitutional Process

Academic journal article Trames

Ukraine's Constitutional 'Saga': Ukrainian Media Reflections of the Constitutional Process

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

A massive European polity, yet a teenager in the family of European democracies, the Ukrainian state is arguably a "vital part of the new Europe" (Wilson 2000:315). This 'new' Europe, previously divided and sidetracked by devastating wars, political purges and famines, remains a patchy puzzle of nations still establishing its geopolitical stance, as well as its identity. Jean Monnet (2006), a visionary of European integration, labeled the continent's post-World War II quest for identity a result of Europe's very specific mode of development, which was progressing "from crisis to crisis". A modern "place brand" (Van Ham 2008:137) for Europe, the European Union (EU) has recently profiled three major crises, namely, the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty by both France and the Netherlands in 2005, and the rejection of the Lisbon Reform Treaty by Ireland in 2008. These suggest that Europe's identification process includes, among many other aspects, its legal profile, that could be described as a combination of "legal characteristics and capabilities" (Vernygora and Chaban 2008:154) recognized by both Europeans and outsiders.

Ukraine's place in the process of finding a shared "broader common interest" (Monnet 1978:523) in the European legal paradigm is rather ambiguous. It is complicated, firstly, by the country's geographical position--according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2009), Ukraine is "obliged to stay between the European Union and Russia in all senses of the phrase". Secondly, the uncertainty in Ukraine's legal portrait significantly adds to the complexity of the issue. The geographical status quo is assumed to remain unchanged in the foreseeable future, despite the outcomes of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, the 2010 Kharkiv Agreement on the Black Sea Fleet and provocative comments on Ukraine, which were allegedly made by a high representative of the Russian political elite. (1) In contrast, Ukraine's legal identity is constantly changing, thus presenting an intriguing subject for scholars of modern Ukraine. It is widely known that a democracy's legal portrait solely depends on the law-abiding activity of the society and its elected representatives. Ukraine's legal persona may be flawed but the country is still a democracy (Kekic 2007), and it is assumed that the key to the country's legal personality can be found in the main piece of its legislation--the Constitution of Ukraine.

This paper argues that the social productivity of Ukrainian legislation--in other words, "how well it is accepted and understood by a society" (Vernygora and Chaban 2008:156)--can be analyzed through the prism of its Constitution, the country's major legal indicator. Therefore, this paper aims to reconstruct Ukraine's legal portrait through a detailed consideration of its Supreme Law since its inception in 1996. Positioning this inquiry in the context of legal historiography, the paper adopts a modern view of this discipline that has been claimed to be "restructured as a science of the history of social communication about law" (Max-Planck-Institut). Accordingly, this work suggests that the post-independence history of the Ukrainian Constitution can be conceived as a history of discussions about the Constitution. In this light, the paper starts with a brief historical review of Constitutional processes in Ukraine and attempts to classify the relevant developments and challenges since Ukraine's independence in 1991. Furthermore, this study systematically analyzes reflections on Ukraine's contemporary Constitutional process provided by a respectable, objective and non-partisan Ukrainian media source, the Dzerkalo Tyznja, in the period from 1996 until 2010.

It is assumed that there is a positive association between mass media coverage of an issue and that issue's place in the public agenda. Indeed, media is argued to influence not only what to think, but what to think about and in what terms (McCombs and Shaw 1972:176-185, Cohen 1963). …

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