The approved amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine on the strategic course of the state to acquire full membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have won the constitutional number of votes, 311. But it is still a long way to go until the final decision is made. President Petro Poroshenko says the final adoption is scheduled for February 2019. This is quite realistic, as the final changes shall be made at the next session of the Verkhovna Rada, which begins on February 5, 2019.

The path to legislative changes is shorter, while will have to wait much longer for Ukraine actually joining the EU and NATO. Everyone realizes that today, it's just a slogan and Poroshenko's advantage in his race for the second presidential term. It is also a political marker showing that Ukraine (albeit only in words) is parting with Russia.

The outcome of the vote for the Constitutional amendments was not surprising. The Opposition Bloc in its entirety said no to the bill – a move which is another litmus test for them. It is obvious that the direction they choose is toward Russia. Twenty-one deputies from the faction voted against the decision setting the country's course toward the EU and NATO. Among them are deputies from both "halves" of the "bloc." This situation clearly demonstrates that there are no ideological differences in these political shards, but only different curators from a single center, which certainly does not want to see Ukraine either in the EU or in NATO.

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After the adoption of the next year's budget, where everyone will get something, it will be hard to gather deputies for the session

However, it should be noted that in this issue, everything was done a bit awkwardly, as it often happens. The presidential administration had for several days "stormed" the Constitutional Court to have ASAP a positive conclusion on the bill because there had been different approaches to the matter, in particular, regarding the legal wording of the changes introduced. For several days, unsuccessful meetings were held until Thursday a decision was made in a rush, which was quickly voted in the Rada. Such a rush might seem to be weird, after all, weekly sessions in December are still ahead. One of the deputies joked: "It must be understood that after the adoption of the next year's budget, where everyone will get something, it will be hard to gather deputies for the session." That is, parliamentarians will be immersed in Christmas and New Year preparations, and there will be no time for work. At the same time, the situation has shown that it is the independence of the Constitutional Court could be questioned.

It was also interesting to observe Poroshenko's address in the Verkhovna Rada and the reaction of the people's deputies. The guarantor of the Constitution was accusing opponents of having sympathies toward Russia, while those "accused" were shouting out from their places that the president should remember on whose team he had been in some of Ukraine's hard times, hinting at Poroshenko once being part of the Yanukovych team.

Despite the fact that the Verkhovna Rada, in the end, supported the presidential bill, there were disputes in the session hall ahead of the vote.

For example, pro-Russian deputies, when discussing the changes to the Constitution, once again insisted that a referendum on such issues is necessary, since Ukraine's accession to NATO is supported by less than half of the population, while just over half of Ukrainians support the idea of the country joining the EU. However, how can these people even talk about things like that, while having without any referendums given up on Ukraine's independence in Russia's favor, in particular, through supporting agreements on the deployment of the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea?

Also, the expediency was discussed of removing from the "Transitional Provisions" of the Constitution a clause saying that the use of existing military bases on the territory of Ukraine for the temporary stay of foreign military formations is possible on terms of lease in accordance with the procedure established by the international treaties of Ukraine, ratified by the Verkhovna Rada. In essence, this is a refusal to accommodate the Black Sea Fleet of Russia.

Hanna Hopko, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Foreign Affairs Committee, said that that the Committee had proposed the following wording: "Ukraine's accession to the North Atlantic Treaty, signed in Washington on April 4, 1949, cooperation between Ukraine and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will be determined by international agreements and arrangements, according to which Ukraine's territory may host military formations of NATO member states as well as the Alliance's infrastructure facilities, under the conditions determined by the contracting parties." "That is, until the moment of Ukraine's accession to NATO, we allow this deployment of bases without spelling it out in the amendments to the Constitution," said Hopko.

Since the prospect of Ukraine's accession to NATO remains distant, this would have enabled the deployment of NATO bases in Ukraine, which would have in turn become a military backbone for Ukraine. However, according to Hopko, it was impossible to convince anybody.

Nothing's strange here. After all, there is no time for such revisions as the elections are knocking at the door, and the electorate must be shown a nice picture of the "reform." All the rest is just details...

Nadia Pryshliak