Ukraine is considering membership of the Council of Europe as the beginning of the course toward European integration, President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych said during a meeting of the Commission on Strengthening Democracy and the Rule of Law on Thursday, according to UKRINFORM.

"The membership in this reputable organization we view only as the beginning of Ukraine's course towards European integration, its long-term objective to become a member state of the European Union," Yanukovych said.

According to the president, Ukraine realizes that both of these organizations [Council of Europe, European Union - ed.] were founded and are developing on the same values that are laid down in the Constitution of Ukraine.

However, the Ukrainian president criticized the pace of implementation of Ukraine's commitments made to the Council of Europe in 1995. In particular, the new criminal procedure code has not been adopted yet, judicial law is not improved, prosecution authorities have not been adapted to European standards, constitutional reform has not been held in proper time. All this and many other challenges Ukraine will have to do, Yanukovych stressed.

He expressed confidence that the efforts of all members of the Commission on Strengthening Democracy and the Rule of Law will be used for constructive cooperation. "We have to fulfill a historical mission, fulfill Ukraine's commitments to the Council of Europe finally," he said.

As reported, the head of state has recently approved a plan to fulfill the commitments of Ukraine to the Council of Europe.

By his decree, he instructed the Cabinet of Ministers to coordinate the work of central executive authorities to implement the plan. The Ministry of Justice is ordered to provide the government with quarterly reports on implementation and inform the president about this.

The previous action plan to implement the duties and obligations of Ukraine, which derive from its membership in the Council of Europe, signed in January 2006, President Yanukovych declared null and void.

The so-called Monitoring Committee operates in Ukraine, which monitors the Ukraine's compliance with obligations taken under its accession to the Council of Europe.

Earlier, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the basis of a monitoring report expressed concern over the oppression of basic democratic freedoms, which the political forces, NGOs and representatives of Ukrainian media have recently complained about.

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