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Greens/EFA: Press release on controversial Ukrainian language bill

Ukraine’s president Poroshenko has signed into law a controversial bill that makes Ukrainian the required language of study in state schools from the fifth grade on. Petro Poroshenko signed the measure on September 25 after days of criticism, particularly from Ukraine’s ethnic minorities.

Rebecca Harms, Member of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament and of the EU-Ukraine delegation, comments:

“The signature of the education bill by President Poroshenko comes as a surprise to me. Just last week Members of European Parliament and of the Verkhovna Rada discussed and agreed that the Ukrainian government and President shall wait for the Venice Commission to assess the law before signing it. Especially after the honest exchange we had with our Ukrainian colleagues this signature is more than disappointing. It has a negative influence on the relations between Ukraine and some of the EU member states. Ukraine adheres to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which provides a clear framework for dealing with minority languages, including in schools and has been an effective instrument in Ukraine for managing the issue in recent years. It proved itself as a successful tool in depoliticizing the issue in many parts of Europe and on this basis it must be possible to come to an agreement between Ukraine its minorities and the EU member states.”

Benedek Jávor, Hungarian Member of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, adds:
“I welcomed the fact that Ukraine intended to converge her educational system to European patterns. Eliminating existing minority rights to education on one’s mother tongue is not such. However, promises to rely on the opinion of the Venice Commission concerning the parts of the Law on Education that have to do with minority languages seemed acceptable. It is in that context that I find president Poroshenko’s decision to sign the bill to law disappointing and demand adjusting it to the forthcoming examination by the Venice Commission.”