The Council of Europe Failed to Reconcile the Ukrainian Authorities with National Minorities Concerning the Law on Education

Translated by Ollie Richardson


At the seminar that took place in Kiev under the auspices of the Council of Europe, representatives of the Ministry of Education of Ukraine weren’t able to reconcile with ethnic minorities concerning the scandalous Article 7 of the Law on education. The Hungarians even refused to participate in the event.

On May 24th-25th in Kiev, within the frame work of the Joint program of the European Union and the Council of Europe: The “Strengthening Support for Ethnic Minorities in Ukraine” project, the seminar “Implementation of the conclusions of the Venice Commission concerning Article 7 of the law ‘On Education’: Policy and practice of education in the languages of ethnic minorities” was held.

The Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine Pavel Hobzey, the head of office of the Council of Europe in Ukraine Morten Enberg, the Deputy Head of office of the Council of Europe Thomas Frellesen, members of the Venice Commission, and the experts of the Council of Europe Rainer Hoffman and Robert Dunbar took part in the work of the seminar.

As is known, in December, 2017 the Venice Commission agreed with the criticism and protests of the Ukrainian ethnic minorities concerning Article 7 of the law “On Education”. It is specified in the conclusion of the Commission that this article “contains essential ambiguities and in the way that it is presented it does not appear to ensure compliance with the key principles necessary to implement the framework law in the context of the international and constitutional obligations of the country”. According to the authors of the conclusion, this threatens a “serious reduction of opportunities” for children from ethnic minorities to learn in their native language, “which constitutes disproportionate interference in the existing rights of persons belonging to ethnic minorities”.

In addition, “the short time frame of the introduction of the new rules causes serious concern about the quality of education”.

As the participant of the seminar that took place in Kiev, the chairman of the Russian community of Ukraine Konstantin Shurov told us, representatives of Hungarian, Romanian, Moldavian, and Russian ethnic minorities did not abandon their pretensions to the Law, “insisting on respect for the norms of the Constitution of Ukraine”. They also said that the new draft bills in the field of education, which are planned to be adopted at the current session of the Verkhovna Rada (and in particular the Law “On Secondary Education”), need to at first be “brought into accord with the Constitution of Ukraine”.

The Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine Pavel Hobzey was forced to announce the position of the Hungarian ethnic minority, which refused to participate in this seminar, and the reasons for the refusal. As was told to us by a source close to the leadership of the Hungarian community of Ukraine, “taking part in events with the participation of the Ministry of Education is useless, since it categorically doesn’t want to make concessions to ethnic minorities”.

“Despite all the attempts of representatives of the Council of Europe, the disagreement between representatives of ethnic minorities and the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine couldn’t be overcome,” concluded Shurov. “The only positive about the Seminar is perhaps the fact that the parties de facto remain in a regime of dialogue”.

Representatives of the Embassies of the US, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Norway also participated in the event.

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