Espreso. Global

Ukrainian parliament adopts law on national minority rights

8 December, 2023 Friday

On December 8, the Ukrainian parliament adopted the law on the rights of national minorities as a whole: all factions worked on the new version

This was reported by MPs Yaroslav Zheleznyak and Oleksiy Honcharenko. 

"The Parliament voted as a basis and as a whole for the draft law No. 10288-1 on amendments to certain laws of Ukraine regarding the consideration of the expert assessment of the Council of Europe and its bodies on the rights of national minorities (communities) in certain areas," the statement said. It is indicated that 317 MPs voted for the law, which was demanded by the European Commission. 

What does the law provide for?

Private higher education institutions will have the right to choose the language of instruction. They will be able to choose between the languages that are official in the EU. At the same time, they are obliged to ensure that the state language is taught as a separate discipline. Classes in which classes are taught in minority languages will be guaranteed the right to use the language of the respective minority in the educational process alongside the state language.

People who started receiving general secondary education before 1 September 2018 and whose languages are official languages of the European Union have the right to continue receiving such education until they complete their general secondary education in accordance with the rules that existed before the entry into force of the Law of Ukraine "On Ensuring the Functioning of Ukrainian as the State Language". As part of the exercise of the rights of indigenous peoples and national minorities of Ukraine, it is allowed to disseminate election campaign materials in their languages. However, they must be duplicated in Ukrainian.

Publishing products published in the Crimean Tatar language, other languages of indigenous peoples or national minorities of Ukraine, whose official languages are EU languages, at the expense of the state or local budget, will not be subject to the requirement to publish at least 50% of all books published during the year in the state language.

"Persons belonging to national minorities of Ukraine whose languages are official languages of the EU and who exercise the right to study in the respective languages in state, municipal or corporate educational institutions may receive: basic secondary education and specialized secondary education in the respective languages of national minorities, except for subjects (integrated courses) related to the study of the Ukrainian language, Ukrainian literature and history of Ukraine, as well as the Defense of Ukraine (for specialized secondary education), which are taught in the state language," the law states.

For TV broadcasters that broadcast, in addition to the state language, in a national minority language, which are languages or to which the provisions of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages apply, except for those recognized by the Verkhovna Rada as state languages by aggressor or occupying states, programs in the state language should be at least 30% of the total duration of programs (or parts thereof). "Restrictions on national minority languages that are the state (official) language of a state that has been recognized by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine as an aggressor state or occupying state are transferred from the final and transitional provisions of the laws of Ukraine to the body of the documents, and therefore will not have a time frame," the text says. 


The Law "On National Minorities (Communities) of Ukraine" was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada in December 2022 and entered into force in March 2023. This law is among the seven recommendations of the European Commission that Ukraine must implement to continue its progress towards the EU.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis called on Volodymyr Zelenskyy to revise the law. The President of Ukraine promised to take Bucharest's wishes into account. Hungary has also repeatedly returned to this topic, speaking about the infringement of the rights of Transcarpathian Hungarians.

In February, the PACE, on the Hungarian-Romanian initiative, appealed to the Venice Commission over the rights of national minorities in Ukraine. In June 2023, the Venice Commission criticized the law on national minorities. On 21 September, the Parliament adopted a new law that removed all controversial aspects. In early November, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna claimed that there is no Russian minority in Ukraine. Instead, there are Russian-speaking citizens.

The Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Ruslan Stefanchuk, also stated that there is no legally recognized Russian minority. Bill No. 10288 was submitted to the Rada on 24 November. It is currently being considered by the committee. The government's representative in the Rada, Taras Melnychuk, explained that the draft law aims to improve the legislative regulation of the rights and freedoms of persons belonging to national minorities (communities) in accordance with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950, the Council of Europe's 1995 Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of 1992, and the recommendations of the Venice Commission. 

At the same time, Taras Shamayda, co-coordinator of the volunteer movement "Space of Freedom", argues that along with provisions that truly protect the rights of minorities, the draft law contains amendments to laws on language, education, media, and publishing that narrow the use of the Ukrainian language and destroy mechanisms for its protection. Television, radio broadcasting, book publishing, etc. will also be under the threat of Russification.

For his part, language ombudsman Taras Kremin also advises that the document be revised. Kremin said that he supports the goal of the draft law, which proposes to accelerate the country's European integration processes. At the same time, the language ombudsman points out that some of its provisions will significantly worsen the functioning of the Ukrainian language in some areas of public life in Ukraine. 

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