The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on Thursday adopted a resolution criticising Ukraine’s new education law in categorical terms
Ukraine is in the wrong, is how Korodi Attila, an MP for the Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians in Romania and a member of Romania’s delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, has summarised the resolution adopted by the Council on Ukraine’s new education law.
Himself a member of an ethnic minority, he said that before passing the law, the authorities in Kiev should have waited for the opinion of the Venice Commission, have consulted with the neighbouring countries and show respect for the European standards and fundamental principles of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
According to Korodi, these conventions very clearly define the basic principle underlying the access of young people belonging to national minorities to education in their languages. The resolution was adopted with an overwhelming majority by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, which justifies the call of the Romanian delegation, supported by five others, that the issue of the Ukrainian law be urgently debated.
The resolution reads: “where states take measures to promote the official language, these must go hand in hand with measures to protect and promote the languages of national minorities”. “If this is not done”, the resolution also notes, “the result will be assimilation, not integration”. The move taken by Romania is only the most recent effort made by Bucharest in its attempt to block the law that drastically restricts access of Ukraine’s many ethnic minorities to education in their languages, by only providing education in minority languages until the end of primary school.
Earlier, Romania’s foreign minister Teodor Melescanu and his Hungarian, Bulgarian and Greek counterparts signed a joint letter expressing their concern and profound regret vis-à-vis the adoption of the new law. The education minister Liviu Pop even travelled to Kiev to argue against the law. The Parliament in Bucharest unanimously passed a declaration calling for the re-examination of the law and saying it watches “with concern and maximum attention” the consequences of the law. President Klaus Iohannis has decided to postpone indefinitely a scheduled visit to Kiev this month.
Commentators describe as absolutely legitimate Bucharest’s concern, given that almost half a million ethnic Romanians live in Ukraine, mostly on the eastern Romanian territories annexed by the former Soviet Union in 1940 and inherited by Ukraine as a successor state in 1991. Over the last two centuries, the Romanian communities in what is today Ukrainian territory have lived under different administrations, including Habsburg, Hungarian, Czech, Tsarist and Soviet. Opinion leaders say, however, that they would never have imagined that Ukraine, with its stated aspirations for European integration, would so drastically try to limit the fundamental right of ethnic minorities to education in their languages.