Ukraine may get one more law on language policy, as the working group formed by the President has prepared new version of the document. Lawmakers have even decided to change the name of the law, transforming it into the law on application of languages in Ukraine.

The bill retains the status of Ukrainian as the state language and contains measures to protect it. In particular, the use of the state language is compulsory in courts and paperwork, in the activities of public authorities, the armed forces, science and education, advertising fields. The law establishes the 75 percent quota for broadcasting in the Ukrainian language (now - 25%) of the total daily broadcast. Broadcast of programs and films in other languages must be accompanied by Ukrainian dubbing or subtitling.

The document does not provide for obtaining regional status by the languages of national minorities. It indicates that the members of territorial community, speaking certain minority language, may initiate "measures to protect it," providing there are at least 30% of native speakers out of the total number of inhabitants of a settlement. Now the recognition of the regional language is permitted in the settlements, where the share of native speakers is at least 10%.

"We have completely changed the concept of protection of regional languages. The native speakers of such language may file their proposal to the local authorities, who, in turn, will have to file them to the regional councils and then to the Verkhovna Rada, which is to adopt the law on promotion and protection of regional language," one of the law authors Serhiy Holovaty said. It is assumed that in case the Parliament adopts a law to support a particular language in a particular area, it will be allowed to use it in all the areas along with the state one.

According to the member of the working group, adviser to the President Hanna Herman, a proposed version of the bill was supported by overwhelming majority of the group. "This is a working proposal. It will be submitted to the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine for examination. So the figure of 30% may not be the final one. At the meeting, Leonid Kravchuk stood for 30%, I talked about 20%. Following the conclusions of the NASU experts, the final version of the bill will be approved," Herman said.

So, what is the future of Ukrainian and Russian languages on Ukraine's territory? Is the new version a better solution of this 'eternal' problem? Forum has asked politicians and experts about their professional opinions:

Leonid Kravchuk, head of the Constitutional Assembly, President of Ukraine in 1991-94:

- I believe you remember the very process of adoption of the law on language policy - violations, protest actions, heated discussions. Many Ukrainians were not happy, but MPs adopted the law nevertheless and then went on vacation, leaving the President to deal with the problem. I think the parliament should have hurried with the adoption.

Now, however, meeting people's demand, the President has gathered a working group, charged with development of amendments to improve the law. We have already worked out a draft document, but it is not final yet. I think we will finished it by the mid-September and will deliver our amendments to the President. It will be up to the President when to submit the draft bill to the parliament. The problem is that it is not the right time for consideration. MPs are now working on their election campaign, and the content of the law is of utmost importance for them. MPs are more worried about its effect on their image. 

I heard that our group allegedly intends to split Ukraine. I want to tell these critics that MPs have already split the country, as the adopted law has been written not for the whole Ukraine, but only for a part of it. Spirituality of the nation is a delicate issue. For this we must consult the Constitution first. And the Constitution says that the Ukrainian language is the only state language, and every institution of power, every state official, every self-government must use Ukrainian in their official appearances.  As for the routing tea-table talk, every person can speak any language he wants.

The adopted law stipulates that the education process in institutes can be held in a regional language. However, we have neither adequate books not teachers. Now imagine a Ukrainian going to study in France, in Sorbonne for example. Can he expect its professors to teach him in Ukrainian? Of course not. Such thought would not even cross someone's mind. As you see, the law is not well-thought-out, and with improper implementation may bring serious risks. Our job is to meet people's demands and call of the times.

Mykola Zhulinski, President's aid, former vice PM, theorist of literature:

- It's hard to say whether the parliament will adopt the new version, as its every single paragraph speaks of domination of the state language - Ukrainian, and only then mentions rights and possible functioning of regional languages or minority languages.
The draft bill is about to be delivered to the National academy of science for an expertise. Somewhere around September 7-8 the working group will have a meeting, during which it is supposed to take a final decision and to submit the draft bill to the Cabinet or President's Administration.
I am sure that if the amendments are adopted by the parliament, it will change the moods in the society. The angry part of the population will understand that we have managed to control the situation and to provide balance. The main point of the amendments is the status of the Ukrainian language, its protection and its rights.

Ivan Yushchuk, linguist, author of Ukrainian language books:

- The adopted law contradicts the Constitution and the decision of the Constitutional Court. In addition, it is illegitimate.

The working group believes that the amendment on 20 or 30% of native-speakers will calm the things down, but still it won't solve the problem. I think we need minimum 50% of a region's population to be representatives of national minorities, as according to the international legislation, such rights can be granted to nations only.

At the same time, I support the proposal to complicate the process of introduction of measures on a regional language protection - native speakers ask local authorities, which ask regional councils, which ask the parliament. It's good that the parliament is the only one to decide on this issue, not every local ' kingling'.

Refat Chubarov, deputy chairman of Crimean-Tatar Majlis:

- I had an opportunity to study the amendments of the working group to the adopted law on languages. I want to speak against it, especially regarding the increased percentage of required number of native speakers.

For all I care, Ukraine had plenty of possibilities to solve the language issue when it ratified the European charter on regional languages and languages of national minorities, but our lawmakers chose a different path, thus both natives and minorities are hostages between the state language and Russian.

If all these amendments are adopted, the Crimean-Tatar language will have no possibility to develop. The Romanian language in Bukovyna and Hungarian language in Transcarpathian region will also face problems. The amendments, called to settle the issue, will merely create more tension. The formation of the working group is the right decision. The working group was supposed to seek possibilities for all languages on Ukraine's territory to develop, preserving the rights of the Ukrainian language at the same time. Unfortunately, the working group has taken the easiest way - to solve the problem of the Russian language and to ignore the rest.  

Volodymyr kornilov, political scientist, director of Ukrainian branch of CIS Institute:

- The draft bill is unacceptable and ignorant. I cannot even imagine how the parliament can adopt it.

The draft bill contradicts the European charter on regional languages, which says the authorities can extend the rights of regional languages, but having extended them once, it has no right to constrict them. Having adopted the law on language policy, Ukraine has no right to reduce the number of regional languages or increase the quotas from 10 to 30%, as proposed by the new version. I believe the draft bill as it is now will never arrive in the parliament. The document is on its way to the Cabinet, where the specialists will examine it and rewrite it.

Volodymyr Yavorivsky, MP from BYuT faction:

- Everything they do on this law is foggy. I don't understand why they formed the working group in the first place. The opposition had two thousand forty amendments to the law on languages, but none of them was even considered.

They should have introduced the third reading of the law, so the parliamentary committee could have considered all the amendments and we would have adopted a good document. Now the working group comes up with some proposals. But everybody is out for the election campaign! Who is working on these proposals? I don't trust this working groups and its amendments.

Vadym Kolesnichenko, MP from the Party of Regions, author of the law on language policy:

- Nobody asked the working group to remake the law. The President formed the working group for it to balance the interests and to work out amendments.  However, the group was formed poorly.
We asked to include clerisy representatives of all ethnic groups, not only Ukrainian, but the requirement was not met. We also asked to introduce amendments in written form and with explanation. This requirement was ignored as well.

This working group is absurd. It refused to consider a pack of amendments of Kivalov-Kolesnichenko, worked out following the recommendations of OSCE. From the very beginning it was absurd and rubbish.

Implementation of this version will make the things worse that they were before the adoption of the main law. The new version limits the rights of people. Such xenophobic law should not exist at all. I will stand against the consideration of this law in the parliament, and as a deputy head of the faction I will ask the faction to stand by me.


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