Ukrainian legislation in terms of language policy has been a bone of contention between official Kiev and neighboring countries for several years. Once again, this topic surfaced at a meeting between Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Siyarto and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba in Budapest.

The Hungarian minister said directly to Kuleba that Budapest would stop blocking cooperation between Ukraine and NATO after solving the problematic issues in the laws on total Ukrainianization and education.

What are the consequences of this requirement of official Budapest, analyzes «Strana».

Either language or NATO

Back in the autumn of 2017, the Verkhovna Rada voted for a law that provides that children in schools and universities should be taught exclusively in the state language. At the same time, the citizens of Ukraine, belonging to national minorities, were very vaguely guaranteed in the law the right to study in their own language.

And only up to the 5th grade, and then they provided the opportunity to learn their native language only within certain quotas. Russian-speaking Ukrainians find themselves in the most deplorable situation, since from September 2020 they will not be able to receive school education at all after grade 5 in Russian.

For national minorities, whose languages are the official languages of the European Union, the law made a much greater relaxation — a transition period was established until 2023.

Later, a similar norm (as well as many other discriminatory norms against national minorities) was enshrined in the law on total Ukrainianization, which the Rada adopted in April last year.

Language restrictions were outraged in Russia, Romania, Bulgaria. But it was the Hungarians who came up with the most radical statement. Official Budapest said that ethnic Hungarians, of whom, according to their calculations, there are 150 thousand people in our country, will not be able to receive education in their native language in Ukraine. And Peter Siyarto immediately said that with such a policy in the field of education, Ukraine «stabbed them in the back.» Further more. The minister ordered not to support at the diplomatic level any Ukrainian initiative in international organizations.

Since the adoption of this law, Ukraine (represented by both the previous and the current government) not only did not abolish language norms for national minorities, but re-consolidated them already in the new law on complete secondary school education.

As a result, Hungary refuses to support Ukraine in international organizations to this day. Including stopping any progress in the relations of our country in NATO.

And Siyjarto has already explained his position to the new Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba.

“It is very important that we keep all channels of dialogue open. This is certain. All agreements that have been reached will be implemented. We wish to close all discussions related to the laws on education and on the language, and we wish to reach a solution that will be acceptable for the Hungarians in Transcarpathia, ”Siyjarto said in Budapest after meeting with Kuleba.

Ukrainization divided the «servants of the people»

To what extent is the Ukrainian government ready for changes in language policy?

Opinions were divided in the Servant of the People faction.

On the one hand, People’s Deputy Maxim Buzhansky has already submitted several bills to change the situation. One of them involves the abolition of the law on total Ukrainization. The second (submitted together with Oppoplatform People’s Deputy Oleg Voloshin) gives all national minorities the right to receive secondary and higher education in their native language. The third extends the period of existence of Russian schools until 2023.Правда, их в штыки встретил профильный комитет по информационной и гуманитарной политике, который возглавляет однопартиец Бужанского Александр Ткаченко.  

At the same time, some of the «servants of the people» support the adjustment of the Ukrainianization policy.

“I believe that the issue of humanitarian policy should be balanced, and people should have the right to receive education in their native language. The fact that this issue is not important is said only by those who are not concerned with this issue, ”MP Yevgeny Shevchenko told Strana. — People should have the right to watch films in their native language in cinemas. The right to send their children to Russian-language schools must be balanced. The quotas for broadcasting in Russian on television and radio should be revised upwards. People should have the right to receive administrative services. We must make sure that the citizens of Ukraine, who were born and lived here, continue to feel in their native country. There are rights that are provided for in Article 10 of the Constitution. They cannot be violated. If you want the Ukrainian language to develop, there is no need to infringe on Russian. And we must understand that those 73% who voted for Zelensky a year ago did not vote for the continuation of Poroshenko’s language policy, but for the liberal humanitarian policy. But in our country many young greens do not realize that they are directly continuing Poroshenko’s policy. «

Answering the question whether these legislative norms will be adopted, the deputy says that everything depends on the position of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“I’ll tell you this, if the president wanted, they would change in a day. It costs him nothing, ”Shevchenko said.

At the same time, many MPs are still taking a wait and see attitude.

“The Hungarian side declares that it is waiting for the solution of problems with the issue of education and according to the law on the use of the state language. As for the first law, its requirements were taken into account. On January 16, 2020, the Verkhovna Rada adopted in the final reading the draft law «On secondary education», which removes private schools from the scope of Article 7 of the language law, and was one of the requirements of Hungary in the conflict with Ukraine, as well as fulfilling the recommendations of the Venice Commission in terms of education persons belonging to national minorities, including Hungarian, — explains the «Strana» MP Irina Vereshchuk («Servant of the people»). — As for the law on language, during the meeting with Dmitry Kuleba there were no specific requirements for the need to change it. In this regard, it seems that a way out of the crisis is possible in the direction of the development of bilingual education for Hungarians, in cooperation between Hungarian and Ukrainian educational institutions, enrollment of subjects that were taught in Hungarian. «

According to her, the dialogue on this issue will be continued in the near future.

“An undoubted positive is the fact that for the first time in many years, the Hungarian side unblocked the work of three intergovernmental commissions, which will meet in June and develop decisions on the educational issue and which will satisfy the requirements of both the Hungarians of Transcarpathia and the Ukrainian people,” Vereshchuk says.

It is true, not so long ago in an interview, the speaker Dmitry Razumkov said that, in his opinion, the law on total Ukrainization needs to be changed. True, he did not say whether the Rada would do it. He only noted that the majority of the faction takes a certain «centrist position» on this issue.

«The fact that nationalists will criticize is good.»

As one of the faction’s MPs told Strana, there are different opinions within the faction and the entire government on the issue of revising Ukrainization.

“There is an opinion that in general this issue should not be touched so as not to run into accusations of zrada. And there is an opinion that some changes need to be made to the local elections, removing the most discriminatory and blatant legal norms. And the fact that nationalists will strongly criticize us on this matter is even good, as it will raise the rating of the Servant of the People in the southeast. And the fact that Hungary is raising the issue in accordance with the laws, linking it with NATO is also good. Since this can be an argument for the pro-Western part of the faction, ”says the deputy.

According to political scientist Ruslan Bortnik, in fact, Zelensky is now facing a difficult choice and has not yet decided on any specific steps.

“ The 1st of  September is around the corner  , after which there will be no Russian schools in Ukraine. Even 20 years ago there were 4.5 thousand schools, and there will not be a single one. Speaker Razumkov is trying to send a signal to the Russian-speaking population that we have not forgotten you, but there is no real progress. Zelensky is trying to balance so that he does not run into the protests of nationalists and take some steps against Russian-speakers. But it is becoming more and more difficult to balance, as he is already losing the support he had thanks to those who hoped that he would change the situation in the country, ”says Ruslan Bortnik.

Galina Studennikova, Strana

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