The diplomatically perfect decision of the Ukrainian Constitutional Court on the question of constitutional legitimacy of the national referendum has been met by the similar diplomatic reply of the Council of Europe.
First of all, the Venetian Commission has rendered a positive evaluation of the Ukrainian Constitutional Court decision. European experts have announced that such a decision conceptually corresponds with the official conclusion of the Commission. The possibility that most Ukrainians felt was imminent - the threat of exclusion from the Council of Europe - had disappeared.
A "happy ending" seemed even more possible after the interview given on 3 April 2000 by Lord Russell-Johnston, head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), where he said that in his opinion PACE would not impose any sanctions against Ukraine.
The situation changed on 4 April when PACE discussed the topic of the Ukrainian referendum. The final decision of PACE suggests suspension of Ukraine' s membership in the Council of Europe if the referendum is conducted in an unconstitutional manner or if the results of it are implemented unconstitutionally. In addition to this decision, PACE asked Leonid Kuchma to postpone the referendum until the adoption of the new law on referenda in the country.
This decision received a very critical reaction from the official Ukrainian side. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes that the PACE decision does not reflect the real situation in Ukraine and can be viewed as disregard for the country's constitution and legislation base and also the decision of the Constitutional Court and other powerful national branches. The Ministry proclaimed that the PACE decision does not take into account the major democratic principle that the people are the only source of power, and that it denies the right of Ukrainian people to determine and introduce changes to its constitutional system.
President Kuchma was even more critical in his comments of the PACE resolution. Starting with the statement that the referendum in Ukraine will take place on the scheduled day under any circumstances, Kuchma stressed that Ukraine is not a colony and that it is a mistake to speak to the country from a position of force. In evaluating the role of PACE as a European organisation, he has emphasized that PACE is not the whole of Europe as the Parliament of Ukraine is not the whole of Ukraine.
Natalya Krasnoboka, 7 April 2000