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Home    Legislation    Ukrainian legal system overview

Ukrainian legal system overview

The Ukrainian legal system is based on Roman law, consisting mainly of codified laws. Since its independence in 1991 the system has undergone several important legal developments. Ukraine became a member of the European Council in 1995 and adopted a new Constitution in 1996. In 1998 the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) with the EU entered into force and an according action plan for legislative approximation was adopted 2005. Also a working party for accession to WTO has been established in 1993. The Civil Code has been reformed and the new law came into force 2004. Further towards market-oriented legislation also the Economic Code was adopted together with the new Civil Code.

Source and hierarchy of laws

The Constitution has the highest legal force. Laws and other normative legal acts shall be adopted on its basis. The acts of the official interpretation as well as court decisions of the Constitutional Court are not formally the source of laws but they may need to be taken into consideration in the judgment of a particular case1.

National laws:
The next highest legislative level is based on laws adopted by Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine2. The Constitution (Article 92) defines areas exclusively to be regulated by laws. Specific spheres of legislation are regulated in “codes”, such as the Civil Code, the Economic Code, the Criminal Code, the Labour Code etc.

After adoption by the Verkhovna Rada law is to be signed and published by the President or is returned to Verkhovna Rada for further considerations3. The law comes into force ten days after its official publication, unless otherwise regulated in the law. The Cabinet of Ministers with the Prime Minister as its head ensures the execution of the law including the implementation of the budget. Local state administration executes the laws on oblast, districts and city level. 

Secondary Legislation:
State authorities such as President, the Cabinet of Ministers and the ministries adopt secondary legislation which implements general provisions of laws. These secondary legislative acts are:

  • Decrees (ukazy) and directives (rozporiadzhennia) of the President of Ukraine
  • Resolutions (postanovy) and directives (rozporiadzhennia) of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine
  • Resolutions, directives, regulations, instructions and orders by ministries and other state authorities

Secondary normative acts issued by ministries and other executive state authorities are to be registered at the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine in case they: (i) concern rights, freedoms and lawful interests of citizens or (ii) are of interagency character.

The local state administrations and bodies of local self-government again adopt directives, orders, decisions etc. supervising the implementation of the laws on regional level.

Fields of law

In Ukraine law may be categorized in various different fields. Some main categories are: 

Constitutional Law:
Constitutional law regulates the basic principles of state structure and management in Ukraine, the competencies of main authorities including Verkhovna Rada, the President, the Cabinet of Ministers, other central authorities and the judiciary.

Administrative Law:
Administrative law comprises norms regulating the relations between state authorities and municipalities, as well as between them and natural/ legal persons. 

Civil Law
Civil law comprises provisions regulating the relations between private persons and legal entities. The main act in this regard is the Civil Code.

Commercial Law
Commercial law comprises norms regulating the relations between legal and natural persons with regard to their engagement into commercial (entrepreneurial) activity.

Company Law
Company law comprises the norms regulating establishment and functioning of different forms of commercial legal entities.

Criminal Law:
Criminal law comprises the legal norms defining crimes and criminal penalties according to the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

Labour Law:
Labour law comprises norms regulating legal relations between employer and employee, such as labour contracts, safety at work and holidays.  The main law in this respect is the Labour Code which was however adopted yet in 1971.

Health Law:
Health Law is not widely acknowledged as a separate category of law in Ukraine. Nevertheless, there are several laws regulating health related issues. The Law on Health Fundamentals of Ukraine regulates the main organizational structure of the Health Care system. 

Taxation Legislation:
Taxation Law comprises norms regulating the tax system of Ukraine.

Procedural law: 
Procedural Law is a general term for court and sanction procedures in the sphere of civil, commercial, administrative, criminal law. Procedural Law in Ukraine is represented, for instance, by such acts as Civil Procedure Code or Criminal Procedure Code.

1 - The Constitutional Court of Ukraine is entitled to adopt conclusions and court decisions. Conclusions of the Constitutional Court are the only acts of official interpretation of the Constitution and laws. They are legally binding and must be taken into consideration by courts. Interpretations of other authorities are not considered as official and therefore are not legally binding. It may however be considered by the court while taking a decision in a case. Moreover, the Constitutional Court may take court decisions on correspondence of laws and other legal acts of the highest state authorities (such as President, Parliament, Cabinet of Ministers) with provisions of the Ukrainian Constitution.

2 - The Autonomous Republic of Crimea has a special place within the legal system and has its own parliament - Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, which is however not entitled to adopt laws. Moreover, normative legal acts of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea shall not contradict the Constitution and other laws of Ukraine

3 - If nonetheless the law is repeatedly voted for by 2/3 of the Parliament members, President has to sign the law and publish it.

This project is funded by European Union This project is implemented by Consortium EPOS Health Consultants with ECORYS and NICO

The views in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission.