News compilation on New Cold War.org, Sept 27, 2017
Ukraine’s president signs controversial education law
MOSCOW — Ukraine’s president has signed a controversial law on education, causing fury in Hungary which is threatening to block Ukraine’s efforts to integrate with the European Union.
The law that President Petro Poroshenko signed late Monday restructures Ukraine’s education system and specifies that Ukrainian will be the main language [sic] used in schools, rolling back the option [emphasis added] for lessons to be taught in other languages.
Russia, Moldova, Hungary and Romania expressed concern over the bill when it was drafted, saying that it would infringe the rights of ethnic minorities.
Ukrainian officials have rejected the suggestion that minority languages will be sidelined. Poroshenko said in a statement on Monday that the law “strengthens the role of the Ukrainian language in education” but also protects the rights of all minorities to get education.
Language has been a politically charged issue in Ukraine where 30 per cent of those polled in the 2001 census called Russian their mother tongue. Separatists [sic] who occupied large swathes of Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east in April 2014 argue that they took up arms against a threat to encroach on their right to use Russian. Ukraine’s pro-Western government that took over [sic] shortly before that pledged to respect all minorities. Some of its most prominent figures are native Russian speakers.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on Tuesday called Poroshenko’s signing of the law “a shame and a disgrace.”
“We guarantee that all this will be painful for Ukraine in the future,” Szijjarto told Hungarian state news wire MTI in Singapore, where he was on an official visit, vowing to block Ukraine’s efforts to integrate with the EU. There are about 150,000 ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine.
In a separate statement, Hungary’s Ministry of Human Resources, which oversees education, called on Ukraine’s education minister to hold consultations with the Hungarian minority in western Ukraine, who were left out of the legislative process before the language law was approved. “Ukraine’s leadership is steering its own country not toward Europe, but toward a dead end,” the ministry said.
Russian officials have condemned the law, saying that it violates Ukraine’s international obligations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that Russia views some of its provisions contradicting modern standards.
In Romania, the president last week last week canceled a visit to Ukraine in protest and has also called off a trip to Bucharest by Poroshenko. The 2001 census listed an estimated 400,000 Romanian speakers in Ukraine.
Hungary threatens ‘pain’ for Ukraine over controversial language law
Hungary has pledged to block Ukraine’s further integration with Europe after Kyiv enacted a controversial education law that critics say will restrict the study of minority languages in schools.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on September 26 that the consequences for Kyiv would be “painful” after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed the measure making Ukrainian the required language of study in state schools from the fifth grade on. “Hungary will block all steps within the European Union that would represent a step forward in Ukraine’s European integration process,” Szijjarto said in comments to the Hungarian news agency MTI that were also posted on the Hungarian government’s website.
“We can guarantee that all this will be painful for Ukraine in future,” Szijjarto added.
His comments come two months ahead of the Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels. A draft statement seen by RFE/RL last week suggests the summit will be dominated by the issue of the EU’s ties to Ukraine and two other ex-Soviet states, Georgia, and Moldova.
The new Ukrainian law does not outlaw instruction in other languages; students can still learn their native languages as a separate subject. Poroshenko said it “raises the role of Ukrainian as a state language in the education process” and “ensures equal opportunities for all.”
A spokeswoman for the European Union called on Ukraine to make good on Kyiv’s pledge to submit the new law to the Council of Europe to obtain what she called an “expert opinion” on whether it met the EU’s standards.
Maja Kocijancic said such language laws “need to be carefully balanced” between the goal of instituting Ukrainian as the state language and “the need the protect minority and regional languages.” Once the Council of Europe’s opinion is obtained, Kocijancic said its advice “should be duly taken into account…in advance of implementation of the legislation.”
Poroshenko’s assurances about the law haven’t assuaged the fears of sizable ethnic communities in Ukraine, including Poles, Romanians, and Hungarians. And the law has incensed officials in other countries neighboring Ukraine as well.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has said that the legislation “drastically limits” minority groups’ access to their respective native languages, and he canceled a previously planned trip to Kyiv.
Russia has been particularly harsh in its criticism, saying this month that the legislation was designed to “forcefully establish a mono-ethnic language regime in a multinational state.”
Language has become a hot-button issue across Ukraine, particularly in eastern regions where the majority of the population speaks Russian as its first language.
The new law’s language requirement overturns a 2012 law passed under then-President Viktor Yanukovych, a Kremlin ally who fled to Russia two years later amid mass street protests. That law allowed for minorities to introduce their languages in regions where they represented more than ten per cent of the population.
Kyiv has sought greater integration with the EU under the pro-Western government that took power following Yanukovych’s ouster. That was followed by Russia’s seizure [sic] of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backing of armed separatists [sic] in eastern Ukraine.
In June, Ukraine secured visa-free travel for its citizens to most EU countries in what Poroshenko called a “final exit of our country from the Russian Empire.”
On September 1, an Association Agreement strengthening ties between Ukraine and the EU entered into force. Yanukovych’s decision not to sign that agreement in 2013 helped trigger the street protests that preceded his fall from power [aka the violent, ‘Maidan’ coup].
Romanian leader cancels visit to Ukraine over language law
BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s president has canceled a visit to Ukraine next month to protest a law that critics say would infringe on the rights of ethnic minorities there.
In remarks late Thursday in New York where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly, President Klaus Iohannis said his announcement was “an extremely … tough diplomatic signal.” Iohannis also said he had called off an imminent visit to Bucharest by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
Iohannis said he was “very, very unpleasantly surprised” by the vote in the Ukrainian parliament.
The law, approved Sept. 5, restructures Ukraine’s education system and specifies that Ukrainian will be the main language used in schools. Ukrainian officials have rejected the suggestion that minority languages will be sidelined.
“If this law comes into effect, it will drastically limit the access of minorities to education in their mother tongue,” Iohannis said. “This hurts us because there are a lot of Romanians in Ukraine.”
In a 2001 census, there were an estimated 400,000 Romanian speakers in Ukraine, of which 250,000 declare themselves Moldovan and 150,000 say they are Romanian.
Russia, Hungary and Moldova have also expressed concern about the law.
Education law signed by Ukraine’s President Poroshenko
The Ukrainian education law signed by President Poroshenko on September 25  violates the basic principles contained in the documents of the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe, and violates Ukrainian obligations in these international organisations. As evidence I will cite examples and quote from international legal documents. In particular, the law violates the provisions of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 2), the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe for the Protection of National Minorities (Article 14) and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (Article 8).
We call on the governments of all countries of the world to take effective measures to have it repealed.
We presume that the UN Council on Human Rights, the Consultation Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the Expert Committee of European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and other relevant international agencies will immediately give their objective assessment of this legislation, if it can be called that.
The new legislative provisions are obviously at odds with the recommendations of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities.
The High Commissioner’s 1996 Hague Recommendations regarding national minorities’ rights to education directly stipulate the rights of national minorities to study in their native language in primary, secondary, vocational and higher education. The document emphasises that “The right of persons belonging to national minorities to maintain their identity can only be fully realised if they acquire a proper knowledge of their mother tongue during the educational process.”
The 2012 Ljubljana Guidelines on Integration of Diverse Societies note that “states should respect the right of persons belonging to minorities to be taught their language or to receive instruction in this language.”
The right of national minorities to be educated in their native language was stipulated in the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document of the Conference on the Human Dimension and in the 1991 Report of the CSCE Meeting of Experts on National Minorities in Geneva. The importance of the aforementioned recommendations “on education, society involvement and language issues” at the intergovernmental level is recognised in the Document of the 11th OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Maastricht in 2003.
I would advise the Kiev authorities and officials to watch the film Crimea directed by Alexei Pimanov in order not to forget where ignoring the rights of their people to cultural identity can lead to. The first run of this film was held in Moscow yesterday. It is a work of art, but I believe it will help wake people up, especially those who approve such laws.
History must teach us something. If events that took place just three years ago are already being forgotten in Kiev, watching Crimea would be a good refresher.
Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland on the Ukrainian education law and teaching in Polish in Ukraine
With regard to publications about the alleged ban on teaching in Polish as the language of instruction in Ukraine, the Polish MFA advises as follows.
The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been aware of the process to amend Ukraine’s education law from the start. The issue was discussed at, among others, a meeting of the Advisory Panel for national minorities education in April 2017 and meetings of the Polish Ambassador with delegations from the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science.
The Ukrainian side has consistently emphasised that the bill, which was ultimately passed on 5 September, was not meant to discriminate against national minority languages.
The law guarantees persons from ethnic groups and national minorities the right to learn in their mother tongues in parallel with learning in Ukrainian at pre-school and general education establishments (i.e. primary and secondary school). The provision in question also guarantees the right to teach a national language at state or local education establishments or by national culture and education associations.
The MFA will closely monitor the process of implementing the law and will take all necessary measures to guarantee the Polish community in Ukraine access to studying in Polish. We have every reason to believe that the Ukrainian side will keep its promise of consulting with Poland any regulations on using national minority languages.
Excerpt from article in ‘Euromaidan Press’, Sept 19:
… Previously, students in Ukraine were able to study all 11 years in the language of an ethnic minority living in Ukraine, meaning that all lessons were conducted in the minority language, and the state Ukrainian language was present only in studying separate subjects – Ukrainian language, literature, history. Right now, 10% of students – some 400,000 children – study in such schools. Most of them are Russian language schools but there are also 5 Polish schools, 176 Hungarian schools, under 200 Romanian schools, a few Moldovan schools, one Slovak school, and a Crimean Tatar school is being created, according to Ukraine’s deputy education minister Pavlo Hobzei.
The new law changes that. The entire education process in all educational institutions will be in Ukrainian. Representatives of national minorities have the right to study in separate groups of kindergartens and elementary school classes where the language of the minority will be used in the educational process besides Ukrainian…
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