Ukraine cannot marshal arguments to defend its controversial law on education

Author : Bohdan Yaremenko

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukraine tried resolve language issue from the position of a state, sieged by the enemies, but Council of Europe is guided by interests and human rights
10:01, 13 October 2017

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Ukraine has chosen a failed manner of argumentation and defending its position. In fact, arguments that there are no Ukrainian schools in Romania or in Hungary work against Ukraine. They say, why Ukrainians were not deeply concerned about it earlier?

The argument about protecting the rights of schoolchildren (representatives of national minorities) who would continue education in Ukrainian universities is very suspicious. First, they have the right to choose whether to study at a university or nor. They have the right to choose to enter the university in Ukraine or abroad. Therefore, level of their Ukrainian is not so essential for the realization of their rights.

Related: Education law creates unfavorable conditions for education in national minorities' languages

Argument about the promotion of the opportunity to integrate into the system of state power through raising the Ukrainian language skills is uncertain. This is the right of representatives of national minorities, and not an obligation to work in state power bodies, to be elected, etc. Citizen of Ukraine has the right to live outside the system of state power. He must just taxes. Knowledge of the Ukrainian language also does not guarantee employment in governmental offices or victory in elections.

The problem is that with these and similar arguments we just mask our fear and our suspicions of national minorities. That is why arguments about issuing the passports are absolutely unacceptable. Believe me, Ukrainian passports have been inssued in the Transnistrian region of Moldova no less.

The desire to get something linguistically homogeneous is largely a result of the war with Russia. 300-year war.

Related: Hungarian language blackmail: Will Budapest bury European future of Ukraine?

But here, not everything is that simple. Even with the Russian language. If we were involved, from a legal point of view, in a war with Russia, then the restriction of something Russian or everything Russian could be justified (for the period of the war).

Thus, 35% of pupils of schools for national minorities may not be able to pass External independent evaluation (EIE) because of the low level of Ukrainian. But another 65% can do it. And obviously, this is enough for the relevant ethnic groups to have their people's deputies, deputies of local councils, representatives in government bodies. Why do we want more from them than they, actually, need? What gives us reason to think that this issue should become the subject of state regulation?

Yes, Ukrainian language is and must be a state language in Ukraine. But is there anything in the Ukrainian legislation that all citizens of Ukraine are required to speak it at a certain qualification level? No. Then why do we use these arguments?

We tried to look at the issue from the point of view of the interests of the state, which is under siege of the enemies. And in the Council of Europe is guided by interests and human rights. The above and other similar arguments of Ukraine could not be convincing.

Related: Why Hungary aggravates language problem with Ukraine?

This does not mean that we should not care about national unity, form our identity. But the mechanisms for resolving these issues cannot be exclusively prohibitive or restrictive.

So, many graduates of Hungarian or Romanian schools will go to study and work in other states. Why? Perhaps the reason is the Ukrainian education is in a state of destruction. In the end, how many Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians who successfully pass EIE, willingly continue to study and work outside Ukraine?

Related: One language for all: Is business in Kyiv ready to switch to Ukrainian?

Ukrainian government has ignominiously lost this situation (yet, of course, we must wait for the decision of the Venice Commission, but the discussion of this issue in PACE has already created some understanding of what these conclusions will be). Ukrainian leadership does not know how to listen and correctly understand the arguments of opponents in the international arena, does not know how to build a system of counterarguments and communication, negotiate with foreign governments that resort to unacceptable methods of pressure on Ukraine, and does not negotiate with its own citizens, allowing foreigners to form their position.

Related: Language of victory: Verkhovna Rada Ukrainized national TV by 75%

The new law on education was signed by Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko on September 25. In particular, it implements 12-years-long school program and allows teaching languages of national minorities only in specially created classes in Ukrainian schools. This particular decision evoked outrage in Moldova, Romania, Russia, and Hungary. Budapest even threatens to slow down the process of Ukraine’s integration with the EU.

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