The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has expressed concerns over articles in Ukraine’s new education law relating to teaching in minority languages.
Meeting in plenary session in Strasbourg on October 12, the parliamentarians voted for a resolution criticizing the new legislation, saying it “does not appear to strike an appropriate balance between the official language and the languages of national minorities.”
“In particular, the new law entails a heavy reduction in the rights previously recognized to ‘national minorities’ concerning their own language of education,” they said.
After days of criticism from Ukraine’s ethnic minorities and its neighbors, President Petro Poroshenko on September 25 signed the legislation into law, which makes Ukrainian the required language of study in state schools from the fifth grade on.
The law does not outlaw instruction in languages other than Ukrainian, and students can still learn their native languages as a separate subject.
But the new law’s language requirement overturns a 2012 law that allowed for minorities to introduce their languages in regions where they represented more than 10 percent of the population.
No ‘Real Consultation’
PACE said that the new law was adopted without “real consultation with representatives of national minorities.”
It also expressed dissatisfaction that Ukrainian authorities submitted the text of the bill to the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission of legal experts for an opinion only after its adoption by lawmakers.
The assembly urged the authorities “to fully implement the forthcoming recommendations and conclusions of the Venice Commission and to modify the new Education Act accordingly.”
In signing the bill, Poroshenko insisted that it was “in harmony with European standards” and “ensures equal opportunities for all,” according to a statement on the presidential website.
But that hasn’t assuaged the concerns of groups such as Poles, Romanians, and Hungarians, all of whom have sizable ethnic communities in Ukraine. The law has also incensed officials in other countries neighboring Ukraine as well, particularly Russia and Hungary.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said that the law is designed to “forcefully establish a mono-ethnic language regime in a multinational state.” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that Ukraine “stabbed Hungary in the back” with the law.