Ukrainian Parliament abolishes language law, neighboring states protest
Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania expressed their dissatisfaction today with a decision taken by the Ukrainian Parliament on Sunday to abolish a law on languages that was adopted in 2012. All three countries have large national minority populations living in several places throughout Ukraine and are therefore calling on the new leadership of the country to respect their rights.
Russia criticized the abolition of the law on Monday. A majority of Ukrainian MPs agreed over the weekend to dismiss former President Viktor Yanukovych, to support the new leadership of the country, and that the language law was unconstitutional and did not conform to European law.
The legislation had permitted the use of a second language in regions where a national minority comprises more than 10 % of the population. The head of Ukraine's neo-fascist Freedom movement, Oleg Tjagnybok, assured minority representatives during the parliamentary debate that the body would adopt a new law on the issue as soon as possible.
The abolition of the law was evidently intended to restrict Russia's influence inside Ukraine. On the basis of its regulations, 14 Russian-language areas and municipalities in the southeast of Ukraine had already proclaimed Russian their second "regional" language.
A similar step has also been taken by other minorities, with Hungarian proclaimed a second language in part of the Transcarpathian area and Romanian proclaimed a second language in some communities. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that Romanian President Traian Basescu called on Ukraine today to make it possible for national minorities to speak their mother tongues.
Basescu believes the country can only remain united "if those holding power show minorities the respect they are due... including the Russian minority." Around 400 000 ethnic Romanians live in Ukraine.
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry has pointed out that the abolition of the law is also affecting the 200 000 ethnic Bulgarian Ukrainians. Bulgaria is calling on Ukraine's current political leadership to "take responsibility and strengthen the involvement of all groups in Ukrainian society through respect for human rights and the rule of law."
Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi has called for the roughly 150 000 Hungarians living in Ukraine to be able to freely use their mother tongue. He referenced an incident that occurred in the border town of Berehove on Monday, when Ukrainian ultra-nationalists from the "Right Sector" group disrupted an event organized by the local Hungarian minority there.
The Russian Foreign Ministry criticized the abolition of the language law on Monday. "By referring to the revolutionary situation, decisions and laws are being rubber-stamped in Kiev that violate the rights of national minorities, including the Russian minority," Russian diplomats complained in their statement.
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