Open letter to Petro Porosenko

Dear President,

We, Members of the European Parliament would like to express our concern regarding the recent adoption of the new educational law (no. 3491-d) passed by the Supreme Council of Ukraine (Verhovna Rada).

Article 7 of the act limits the right of ethnic minorities to access to education in their mother tongue. Specifically, the article would limit such access to education in kindergarten and primary schools only, making Ukrainian the sole language of secondary and higher education. The law – ignoring the country’s constitution and international commitments – strips ethnic minorities (such as Romanians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Polish and Slovaks) of their right to education in their mother tongue, which is a dramatic step backwards compared to recent legislation. Keeping in mind that at least 20% of Ukraine’s population is composed of ethnic minorities, it is essential that the language and cultural rights of these communities are respected for the sake of social harmony.

The anti-minority measures of the educational reform are highly disappointing, because Ukraine had already pledged its commitment towards European integration several times. It is impossible to foster the learning of the state language with coercive methods. Appropriate means, motivation and good examples are the better approach. Towards the EU and its Member States, your country sends a negative message by stripping ethnic minorities of their constitutional rights, which are guaranteed by numerous international commitments (signed and ratified by Ukraine), to use their mother tongue, namely:

–           The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages according to which in particular the right to use a regional or minority language in private and public life is an inalienable right of a person (Preamble, Part 3);

–           Defining their policy with regard to regional or minority languages the Parties shall consider requirements and wishes of the groups using these languages (Article 7, Part 4).

–           The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities according to which the Parties undertake to establish for persons belonging to national minorities equal opportunities for access to education at all levels (Article 12, Part 3);

–           In addition, the Parties shall endeavour to ensure within the framework of their respective systems of law that persons belonging to national minorities shall have adequate capabilities to teach the language of the respective minority or to receive tuition in this language (Article 14, Part 2).

–       By having signed the Association Agreement with the EU in 2014 – which entered into force on 1 September this year – Ukraine is committed to a close and lasting relationship with the European Union that is based on common values, namely respect for democratic principles, rule of law, good governance, human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights of persons belonging to national minorities, non-discrimination of persons belonging to minorities and respect for diversity and human dignity. (Article 4, part 2. e.)

During the preparation of the educational law, we Members of the European Parliament repeatedly called the attention of the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and the First Deputy Chairperson of Committee on Science and Education of Verhovna Rada to the fact that the new law would drastically limit the rights of ethnic minorities and requested legislators that they take a more European-like approach. Despite these efforts, the text of the adopted legislation violates not only the constitutional rights of ethnic minorities in Ukraine, but also contradicts the country’s international obligations such that of the European Union.

Therefore, we Members of the European Parliament would request you Mr. President to refuse to sign this new educational law, which is discriminatory and is in contradiction with the European and international standards.