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How to Upgrade EU Benchmarking in Fundamentals: The Case of Judicial Reform in Ukraine

Analitical paper

With this study, UCEP initiates a discussion among key stakeholders who will be involved in developing the agenda of the EU-Ukraine accession negotiations. The authors propose a new approach to the formulation of benchmarks in the Fundamentals cluster, which are currently formulated in a rather general way. Defining clear and measurable indicators in the key cluster, taking into account the national context, will allow Ukraine to move towards EU membership faster, and more efficiently while maintaining the necessary pace of reforms. The authors demonstrate the idea of changing the approach to the formulation of benchmarks on the example of the reform of the judicial system in Ukraine and call on Ukrainian and European experts to discuss improving the EU accession rules. The research was developed by the Ukrainian Center for European Policy in cooperation with the Western Balkan expert Marko Kmezic (University of Graz, Austria) and the Centre for Political and Legal Reforms (Kyiv, Ukraine) with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Ukraine.

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This study proposes to use the example of judicial reform to find a balance of flexibility and clarity to improve the effectiveness of Ukraine’s accession negotiations. This paper proposes a methodological approach to address these challenges, focusing on a normative and empirical analysis of the judiciary in Ukraine and offering policy recommendations that are appropriate for different stages of the negotiation process.

The paper includes a normative and empirical analysis of the state of judicial reform in Ukraine in order to understand its problems and needs in the context of European integration. The research methodology involves studying both legislation and its practical application in four components. The study results in the formulation of policy recommendations based on the identified gaps.

The analysis demonstrates both the achievements of the reform and the challenges and areas where comprehensive solutions should be developed. The key components of the independence include the role of judicial (self-)governance bodies, such as the High Council of Justice (HCJ) and the High Qualification Commission of Judges (HQCJ), which play an important role in judicial independence and can be both positive and negative actors in the process of ensuring judicial independence. In addition, the chapter highlights problems in judicial career processes, resource allocation and access to human resources that affect access to justice.

This publication is addressed to the expert community, decision-makers of the EU member states and the European Commission, in particular, the Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations.


Dr. Marko Kmezic, Centre for Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz​​​​​
Dr. Viktoriia Melnyk, Centre for Political and Legal Reforms, Kyiv, Ukraine​​​​​​
Roman Smaliuk, Centre for Political and Legal Reforms, Kyiv, Ukraine



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Kateryna Bilotserkovets

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Project Coordinator +380 44 4927443


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