On 07 June 2017, the Ukrainian Parliament ratified the European Agreement on the Transmission of Applications for Legal Aid (the “Agreement”). The Law On the Ratification of the European Agreement on the Transmission of Applications for Legal Aid was signed by the President of Ukraine on 26 June 2017 and enters into force on 07 July 2017.

The Agreement came into force in 1977, and has now been ratified by 32 member-states belonging to the Council of Europe, including France, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, excluding Germany and Russia. A full list of the parties to the Agreement is available on the website of the Council of Europe

The Agreement provides a procedure for a resident of a country party to the Agreement to access the system of free legal aid in another country party to the Agreement.

Under the Agreement, any person who is resident in the territory of a Council of Europe member state and wishes to obtain legal aid in another member state can apply to the authorities of his/her country of residence (the “Transmitting Authority”), which will thereupon transmit the request to the authorities of the other State. The Transmitting Authority shall also assist in translating application from the applicant’s language into the language of the country where the legal aid is sought.

For example, a person residing in France and requiring legal aid in Ukraine in a family matter may file his/her request with the French competent authority (Ministère de la Justice, Direction des Affaires Civiles et du Sceau), which will in turn transmit the application to the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice for the latter to arrange for the legal aid to be provided to the French applicant.

It is important to note, however, that the procedure is normally applicable only to persons eligible to free legal aid (being in an “economically weak position”). Accordingly, potential applicants are advised to consult with the competent authority of their country of residence to define whether they are eligible for legal aid in each particular case. The list of authorities is available here.

The procedure is applicable to requests on civil, commercial or administrative matters, and not applicable to criminal matters. Finally, due to the several levels of state authorities involved, an applicant has to be prepared for a very lengthy procedure of communication. Accordingly, a direct application to a local legal advisor should be considered where fast legal advice is required.