Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich’s remarks on Ukraine’s education law delivered at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, Vienna, September 28, 2017
Ukraine continues its blatant and widespread human rights violations. This situation has set a record across the OSCE territory.
Recently, Ukrainian authorities openly breached their obligation to protect the rights of ethnic minorities. I am talking about the law On Education passed by the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada in early September.
Despite calls from the leadership of several countries and public organisations not to discriminate against the languages of ethnic minorities, President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko signed the document on September 25. The law introduces severe restrictions on the use of minority languages with a view to completely eliminating them from the country’s education system by 2020. Thus, starting from September 2020, or three years from now, education in minority languages will be allowed only in pre-schools and elementary schools in Ukraine. Eventually, this may result in the closing of all educational institutions that use any language other than Ukrainian as the language of instruction.
Enforcement of the law will prejudice the language rights of millions of Ukrainian citizens, including ethnic Russians, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Greeks, Poles, Romanians and other native speakers of regional and minority languages.
Officials in Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Poland, Greece and Bulgaria have already expressed their deep concern regarding this law.
Notably, the new law has been condemned in Ukraine itself as well, including by the leadership of the Lvov Regional Council and several other regional councils and public organisations in Ukraine.
This measure is an attempt of the Maidan-brought government to carry out a language purge in the education community in Ukraine, which clearly contravenes its Constitution, specifically, articles 10, 24 and 53, as well as Ukraine’s international obligations. In this context, I would like to remind Ukraine’s representatives of related provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the 1960 Convention against Discrimination in Education, the CSCE Concluding Document of the Vienna Meeting 1986, the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE 1990, and the Report of the CSCE Meeting of Experts on National Minorities in 1991.
It would be useful to cite some of them. Particularly, the Copenhagen Document clearly states that “persons belonging to national minorities have the right freely to establish and maintain their own educational… organizations or associations.” “The participating States will endeavour to ensure that persons belonging to national minorities, notwithstanding the need to learn the official language or languages of the State concerned, have adequate opportunities for instruction of their mother tongue or in their mother tongue.”
According to paragraph 63 of the Vienna Document (1986), the participating states “will ensure access by all to the various types and levels of education without discrimination,” including as to language.
Ukraine’s new law is contrary to The Hague (1996) and Ljubljana (2012) recommendations by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, according to which “states should respect the right of persons belonging to minorities to be taught their language or to receive instruction in this language, as appropriate, especially in areas inhabited by them traditionally or in substantial numbers.”
Despite the fact that the new law does not specifically mention the Russian language (nor does it refer to other languages), obviously, the main goal of the Ukrainian legislators is to infringe on the interests of millions of Russian-speaking residents of Ukraine as much as possible, and to enforce a monoethnic language regime in a multinational state. This step is another act of intolerance against various ethnic groups.
Adhering to the same line in the language issue, the Kiev officials are again provoking the same situation and recreating the same reasons that, to a large extent, were the starting point of the conflict and later the civil war in southeast Ukraine. Adoption of this law prevents the parties to the intra-Ukrainian conflict from coming closer and throws back the prospects of final reconciliation. It is clear that Kiev openly refuses to fulfil its obligations under the Minsk Package of Measures of February 12, 2015 which, in paragraph 11, stipulates that, due to their special status, certain areas in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions will have the right to their language self-determination.
We call for the High Commissioner on National Minorities, the ODIHR, the Austrian Chairmanship and OSCE Secretary General to give a principled evaluation to the said law and to finally address the situation with ethnic minority rights in Ukraine in earnest.
Thank you for your attention.