Appeal: On violation of constitutional rights of persons who belong to national minorities regarding their education in their native language
To: President of Ukraine
Cc: The Ukrainian
for Human Rights
On violation of constitutional rights of
persons who belong to national minorities
regarding their education in their native language.
Dear Petro Oleksiyovych!
We, the leaders of public organisations of national minorities of Ukraine appeal to you, as the guarantor of the Constitution of Ukraine, rights and freedoms of persons and citizens on the issue concerning the actions of the Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine aimed at the violation of constitutional rights of people belonging to national minorities to study in their native language.
The point is that on October 19, 2016 on the official website of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine (hereinafter the Ministry) a notification was published reporting that the Ministry and social activists came to an agreement on amendments to Article 7 of the draft Law “On Education”. The essence of this “agreement” lies in introducing significant changes to the provisions of Article 7 of the draft Law 3491-d, which was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in the first reading. It outlined some constitutional and international legal imperatives for the regulation of language relations in the field of education. In particular, provisions of part five of Article 53 of the Constitution of Ukraine, according to which “Citizens who belong to national minorities are guaranteed in accordance with the law, the right to study in their native language or to study their native language in state and communal educational establishments“ as interpreted by those who “achieved agreement”, should be transformed into a regulatory text as follows: “Those persons who belong to national minorities and to indigenous peoples have the right to education in their native language alongside with the Ukrainian language in state and communal preschool and comprehensive secondary education establishments in areas of their compact residence”. Thus, the constitutional guarantee, has been modified into the right, which in this case can be implemented only in compliance with two additional conditions not laid down by legislation, namely, only alongside the Ukrainian language and only in areas of compact residences of the relevant minority, at pre-school and secondary educational stages only.
The provisions of paragraph four of Article 7 of the Bill, aiming at grounding linguistic diversity in education, according to which: “Educational institutions in accordance with their educational programmes can implement educational processes in two or more languages (in official language and minority languages, as well as in other languages), and can teach one or more courses in English and / or other languages” is proposed to read as follows: “Educational institutions in accordance with their educational programmes can implement educational processes in two or more languages, in the state language and in one or more official languages of the European Union.” It follows thence, that providing education will be impossible not only in minority languages which are not official languages of the European Union (for example, Crimean Tatar or Gagauz language), but that after the UK leaves the EU, it will be impossible to provide education in English either. Thus the right to study, at the request of minority language applicants at a level that allows for professional activity in the selected field, using their language (paragraph five of Article 7 of the Bill), in the opinion of those who “achieved agreement” should be narrowed to creating “a possibility to study their minority language as a discipline”.
We believe that by such actions the Ministry officials make an attempt to violate the constitutional rights of citizens of Ukraine who belong to the national minorities and they do so, offering in fact to repeal and / or violate the rights enshrined in the text of the Constitution of Ukraine, including: part three of Article 10 to guarantee the free development and use of minority languages and part five of Article 53 which guarantees the right to education in a native language; part three of Article 22 on inadmissibility of narrowing the content and scope of existing rights and freedoms in the adoption of new laws, and part two of Article 24 on inadmissibility of privileges or restrictions on ethnicity and linguistic grounds. Besides, it is worth mentioning that the right to education in their native language for a number of national minorities of Ukraine (Bulgarians, Moldovans, Romanians, Hungarians, etc.) is implied not only by the provisions of the current legislation of Ukraine. It was acquired during decades and practiced in different state formations, in which their traditional settlement areas had been earlier. Furthermore, it is being practiced today in full compliance with the current legislation of Ukraine. Therefore, an attempt is made to annul the already acquired, customary laws of persons who belong to these communities.
We emphasize that these intentions of the Ministry leadership are in contradiction with the international and legal obligations of Ukraine in the sphere of human rights protection and freedoms of persons in general, and minorities in particular. Thus, pursuant to paragraph 34 of the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE, the State Parties should seek to ensure to persons who belong to minorities – apart from the need to study the official language of the state – proper conditions for learning their mother tongue or learning in their mother tongue. In addition, according to paragraph three of Article 4 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National and Religious Minorities, states shall take appropriate measures to ensure that, wherever practicable, persons belonging to minorities have adequate opportunities to study their native language or study in their native language. The proposed amendments to the draft Law “On Education” are contrary to both the spirit and letter of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and also the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, as well as Recommendation 1201 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adhere to which, Ukraine is obliged to by a number of international agreements.
In passing, we also remind that Ukraine has committed itself to provide the study of native language or in native language at all stages of education in a number of bilateral agreements, including: the Declaration on the Principles of Cooperation between the Hungarian Republic and the Ukrainian SSR in the field of Guaranteeing the Rights of National Minorities, the Treaty on good–neighbourly relations and cooperation between Ukraine and Romania and the Agreement between Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova on cooperation in ensuring the rights of persons belonging to national minorities and also in a number of other similar agreements.
The adoption of the proposed suggestions will also be contrary to the provisions of Article 6 of the Law of Ukraine “On national minorities in Ukraine”, according to which the state guarantees education in their native language or study of their native language to all national minorities. In addition, it will contradict to Article 20 of the Law of Ukraine “On principles of state language policy”, in which the free choice of the language of instruction is recognised the inalienable right of citizens of Ukraine, and in which the right to education in regional or minority languages is guaranteed. Hence, a conflict of national law rules will be provided. It is also worth noting that in compliance with the logic of the national legislation system of Ukraine, the issue of the regulation of the language of instruction does not belong to legal relations. Its regulation should be provided in the Law “On Education”, since these matters belong within the scope of language relations. Therefore, in accordance with Article 7 of the current Law of Ukraine “On Education”, the language of instruction is defined in Article 20 of the Law of Ukraine “On principles of state language policy”.
Dear Petro Oleksiyovych! We address these issues to you and not to the leaders of the institutions of the legislative process because we consider it hopeless to appeal to them due to the fact, that according to the information available, they have initiated and supported the above mentioned legislative proposals. Even prior to “ achieving agreement between the minister and civil activists” on October 18, 2016 news agencies reported on the statement of the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Vyacheslav Kyrylenko saying that Article 7 “Language of education” of the Bill “On Education ” should be changed: “Tomorrow joint amendments will be made by the Ministry, the public and MPs.” Likewise, the Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine Lilia Grinevich after “achieving agreement” on October 19, 2016 reported that “… today, these amendments were registered by a group of 15 deputies and signed by the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Andriy Parubiy”. In other words, it concerns the already agreed position of heads of government and parliament of Ukraine on this issue.
We ask you, dear Mr. President of Ukraine, to use powers provided to you by legislation of Ukraine as well as your authority and political influence on the legislative process, to take appropriate measures to prevent the implementation of the above-mentioned proposals which, beside leading to the violation of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens of Ukraine, constitute a threat to the credibility of our country in the international arena. Moreover, they question the sincerity of the declared euro-integration aspirations, whose implementation is impossible in conditions of violation of rights and freedoms of persons, especially with regard to vulnerable groups of population, which include representatives of national minorities.
With sincere respect to you:
25 November 2016
People’s deputy of Ukraine,
Chairman of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Cultural Association
People’s deputy of Ukraine,
Chairman of the Association of Bulgarians in Ukraine
President of the Assembly of Nationalities of Ukraine
President of the Council of National Communities of Ukraine
Chairman of the All-Ukrainian Society “Russian Assembly”
Executive Director of the Jewish Forum of Ukraine
Chairman of the Federation of Greek Communities of Ukraine
Chairman of the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Ukraine
Chairman of the All-Ukrainian National Moldovan Cultural Association
Executive Secretary of the Interregional Union “The Romanian Community of Ukraine”
Chairman of the NGO “Russian national-cultural cooperation”
Chairman of the All-Ukrainian public organisation “Union of Gagauz of Ukraine”
President of the NGO “International Union”
Chairman of the NGO “International Union”
President of the All-Ukrainian Union of NGOs the Roma Congress of Ukraine