November 21, 2017
Ukrainian Education Act, adopted by Ukrainian parliament on Sept.5 2017, has become the matter of great discussion not only in Ukraine, but the near abroad. It is also an item of the agenda of EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg. Hungary and Russia are among active critics, Poland, Bulgaria and Greece are not indifferent. Romania is not standing aside. In particular, Romanian parliament has recently adopted declaration containing the hope that European standards regarding the rights of national minorities, residing in Ukraine, will be observed. The most debatable clause of this act is imperative usage of Ukrainian language as obligatory language at all stages of education, except for the pre-school and elementary school education. It is obvious that such determined decision has provoked rough reaction of Ukraine’s neighbours. Russia has already called this law act as “ethnocide” of Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine. Hungary has also expressed hard-line response, accusing Ukraine of ousting Hungarian language from Ukraine in general and from Carpathian Ruthenia region in particular. Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto called new Ukrainian Education Act as “a stab in the back” and said Hungary would block all euro-integration initiatives of Ukraine. But is that negative reaction of international community as unanimous as it is stated? Not all European officials and international experts are so peremptory with the new Ukrainian Education Act. Thorbjorn Jagland, the Secretary of Europe council, dedicated the article to this topic, admitting that minorities must be fluent in the official language of country they are residents of and the country is obliged to bring them opportunity to learn official language. According to Jagland, app. 400.000 of students of national minorities are studying in their native languages, so there is no reasons to accuse Ukraine of violations of minorities’ rights. Also, Mr. Jagland hailed the decision of Ukrainian government to send the text of the Education Act to the Venice Commission for detailed analysis. The minister of education and science of Latvia Karlis Sadurskis expressed even more pro-Ukrainian opinion in this regard. During the meeting with the minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin, Mr. Sadurskis said it was absolutely understandable decision of Ukrainian government to persuade students to learn official language. It is worth mentioning the opinion of European experts in this regard. Gwendolynn Sass, senior partner in Carnegie Europe and the Director of “Center for Eastern Europe and International Studies”, believes that the new Education Act is a great opportunity for Ukrainian language and for Ukrainian citizens who can become more competitive in the national labour market. As the thesis of abuse of national minorities’ rights, committed by Ukraine, is very doubtful and it needs more serious researches, let’s take into account those reasons which could have provoked Hungary and Russia to make such flat statements on Ukraine. The reasons for such rough and inadequate reaction of Hungary can be divided on internal and external ones. One of internal reason is parliamentary elections in Hungary coming soon, which Orban’s team can win only having the external threat. The problems of providing internal policy force Hungarian government to use nationalist rhetoric, though it completely discords with the principles and law of European Union. Another internal reason for Hungary to escalate conflict with Ukraine is the issue of Carpathian Ruthenia region, which was separated from Hungary as a result of World War II. This reason is a part of the reason above, just because the idea of “recollection of territories” is the good mobilization instrument and it can distract the attention of Hungarian citizens from the government’s fails in economy and finances. The main external reason of such hard-line position of Hungary is Russian influence. For Russian Federation, it is extremely important to reduce the power of Ukraine and the lift of sanctions, which were established by the world community because of annexation of Crimea and constant support of pro-Russian terrorists in the particular districts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine. The obligatory Ukrainian language education is the good ground to show Ukraine as undemocratic, authoritarian state which cannot be the partner of EU because of permanent violation of the rights of national minorities. It is the reason why we have to make clear the issue of alleged violations of the rights of Hungarian minority in Ukraine. With reference to Hungarian minority in Carpathian Ruthenia region we can use network search and we can find that there are such education institutions in Ukraine with only Hungarian language of education as Ferenc Rakoczi II Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute, Department of Hungarian Philology in Uzhgorod National University etc. We don’t list the hundreds of Hungarian high schools, Hungarian education programs etc. The statements of Hungarian politicians about the violations of the rights of Hungarian minority in Ukraine seem to be very doubtful. Likewise, the problem is that most part of students of Hungarian minority doesn’t know Ukrainian language at all, so they cannot use their civil freedoms and rights of Ukrainian citizens. At the same time the situation of the rights of more than 13 minorities in Hungary remains to be quite hard. The Hungarian government has not admitted the existence of these minorities for a long time. The Act of the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities № 77 of 1993 was adopted only because of the international pressure and it is often violated because of increasing nationalist rhetoric of Hungarian politicians. Maybe such abnormal situation encouraged Ukrainian government to establish the Ukrainian language as the obligatory language for education. Ukraine is on the way to integrate into EU and it seems to be impossible that Ukraine would violate the rights of national minorities to use their national languages.
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