Kiev must implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

“With relation to the Ukrainian Education Act, Kiev must fully conform to the expectations of the European Union and the Venice Commission ‘if it is serious’ about its Euro-Atlantic aspirations”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó declared on Monday in the recess of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

At his press conference, the Minister highlighted: “The official opinion published by the Venice Commission on Monday is ‘absolutely clear’, the report’s recommendations cannot be interpreted in two different ways”.

He pointed out that it transpires from the document that the Council of Europe body made up of constitutional experts also believes that the “correct solution” would be to amend the disputed Article 7 of the Act.

He repeated that the Government has three expectations with regard to the Ukrainian authorities in this matter: that they do not restrict previously afforded rights, that they enter into negotiations with national minorities in Ukraine, and that they fully conform to the recommendations and conclusions of the Venice Committee.

“Hungary cannot support Ukraine’s aspirations within international politics until the situation changes”, Mr. Szijjártó said, adding that he hoped that would occur as soon as possible.

On Monday, the Venice Commission published its official opinion on the Ukrainian Education Act, according to which although Ukraine’s aspirations are fundamentally legitimate, the strong domestic and international criticism with relation to the reduction in the scope of education in minority languages is justified. As the report explained, Article 7 of the legislation is significantly different from the original draft, on which minorities were consulted, and it contains important ambiguities, in addition to which it does not include the required guidelines for the realisation of the country’s international and constitutional commitments.

The stipulation that permits certain subjects to be taught in one of the official languages of the European Union, i.e. Hungarian, Romanian, Polish and Bulgarian, is clearly discriminative towards citizens who speak Russian, the most widely used language apart from the official language, the Commission stressed.

The new Education Act adopted by Ukraine’s Parliament on 5 September aims to modernise public education via reforms that will be implemented from September 2018. According to Article 7 of the legislation, national minorities would only be permitted to receive education in their native language up to and including 4th grade, and only in separate classes or groups in schools that are funded by local authorities, meaning that, with the exception of native language subjects, from the 5th grade upwards all subjects would be taught exclusively in Ukrainian. According to critics, this violates Ukraine’s constitution, as well as its commitments in accordance to international treaties.



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