Friday,
22 September 2017
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OpinionNeighbors annoyed by education reform

There are no legal grounds for objections on the part of other countries to Ukraine’s brand new law on education. Back in the day, Ukraine ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. However, this Charter does not imply our country's obligation to ensure full education and teaching all subjects in a minority language. Ukraine has never agreed to that.

However, there is a certain tradition that children living in Hungarian and Romanian enclaves in Ukraine were taught in their native languages. With the adoption of the new law, it may seem to be that minority rights are allegedly limited.

I do not believe that either in Romania or, moreover, in Hungary, Ukrainian children have the opportunity to get secondary education in Ukrainian.

But in reality there are two angles to the issue: on the one hand, there are objective preconditions for these people speaking Romanian or Hungarian but on the other hand, it is not normal when graduates of Ukrainian schools cannot properly speak Ukrainian. This balance in each country is achieved in various ways. I do not believe that either in Romania or, moreover, in Hungary, Ukrainian children have the opportunity to get secondary education in Ukrainian. So, I think that the issue can be solved on a parity basis. After all, for example, in Russia, where is a significant Ukrainian community remains, there are really few classes taught in Ukrainian, even in elementary schools.

Historically, Romanian and Hungarian communities in Ukraine had the opportunity to study and get secondary education in their native languages. But Ukraine is moving toward providing full secondary education in the national language. It is a natural process for any country, and there is no crime here.

How should Ukraine react to this criticism? Kyiv needs to find some sort of compromise solution. Options for enhanced opportunities for representatives of national minorities within the framework of the adopted law can be considered, in order to have a more thorough study of the languages of national minorities in parallel lines.

But it is only worth looking for a compromise without going beyond the boundaries of the new law. After all, if Ukraine starts to amend the law, it will not be a change for the better. We hear serious warnings from the supporters of the Ukrainian national language, who are also unhappy with the new legislation. But I think that the current balance laid down in the law today is consistent with both national interests and our international obligations.

Therefore, obviously, our partners will have to get in terms with the new practices of the Ukrainian state in its educational policy.

We need to compare the situation to that in other countries, explaining and proving that there is no offensive ongoing on the rights of national minorities.

This is an issue where it is desirable to make as few sharp moves as possible. If we have already adopted such a law and such a version of a compromise, then it is necessary to pursue it.

Why are these countries criticizing the law? Do they comment on the new legislation, based on some political considerations, or is that because they are "friends" of Russia? For example, the Moldovan issue is a separate case. The policy of the newly elected President of Moldova can hardly be considered friendly in relation to Ukraine as a whole. In addition, there is a sharp internal conflict in this country. And besides, the question remains - how is the Moldovan language different from Romanian? That is, this case is a separate one.

I do not think that Poland could be considered a great friend of Putin. However, speaking about Poland, Romania and Hungary, they are somehow connected with the Russian president, at least in the sense that they allegedly respond to the strengthening of nationalism within Ukraine and consider new norms of educational legislation as increasing the pressure on national minorities within the framework of strengthening nationalist motives in their domestic policies.

Of course, we need to compare the situation with that in the other countries, explaining and proving that there is no offensive ongoing on the rights of national minorities.

This whole situation is definitely beneficial to our neighbors, given that demographic processes in Europe are generally unfavorable. They will do their utmost to mold in our territory their future citizens, their workforce and future experts in various fields.

In addition, we must take into account that Romania and Hungary, on which I mainly focus, see a somewhat specific situation. If we talk about certain territories of Ukraine, which are dominated by the Romanian-speaking and Hungarian-speaking population, it is not a secret that these people are massively being issued passports by neighboring countries. It's no secret that they regularly travel abroad. And if they seek to obtain a full secondary education in the territory of Ukraine in their native languages, this means that they associate their life plans with neighboring countries and consider the option of emigration. In other words, while they are on the territory of Ukraine, they do not consider the option of further education and employment in Ukraine, tending to shift toward universities and businesses in neighboring countries. Despite them being our citizens living in our territory, in fact, in the future, they are not tied with Ukraine, and they are practically citizens of neighboring states.

This whole situation is definitely beneficial to our neighbors, given that demographic processes in Europe are generally unfavorable. They will do their utmost to mold in our territory their future citizens, their workforce and future experts in various fields. And this is exactly an opportunity they have today. Of course, they are not ready to give up on it now. But friendship with Putin is not a primary factor in this case - they are guided by more pragmatic motives.

Maksym Rozumniy is a Doctor of Political Science, Head of the Center for Research of the Russian issues at the National Institute for Strategic Studies

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