Based on the Council of Europe’s recommendations, Ukraine may amend its previous restrictive laws on national minorities. The draft has also been sent to Hungarian interest groups in Transcarpathia (in Ukraine) for feedback, reports Kárpáti Igaz Szó.
In Kiev, a proposal for a framework law amendment has been drafted, which would make adjustments to the 2017 education law, the language law approved in 2019, and the document regulating the rights of national communities, voted in December 2022. The Venice Commission criticized the laws affecting national minorities on several occasions, and the Hungarian minority organizations in Transcarpathia made numerous proposals for changes, since these laws represent a step backwards from previous practice. However, the comments of minority organizations have been swept off the table until now, and the social debates that have taken place have been more of a sham.
The latest legislative amendments could bring about substantial changes.
Distinctive, guaranteed minority rights would be granted to communities whose members make up at least 15 percent of the local population.
This category would include the vast majority of our Hungarian settlements in Transcarpathia, but there is also good news for Hungarians living dispersed, as a point has been added allowing the rights of national minority communities to be extended to those who have lived in the region for 100 years. The history of the Transcarpathian Hungarians goes back not 100, but 1100 years. This is why it was unfair that they were excluded from the list of indigenous minorities in Ukraine.
If the new draft were to be implemented, quotas for teaching Ukrainian in school subjects would be abolished.
In principle, the rights-restricting passage of the education law adopted in 2017, would have come into force in September this year. This law would have gradually switched to teaching subjects in Ukrainian for minority pupils from the fifth grade onwards, and by the end of secondary education, the vast majority of subjects in Hungarian classes, around 60%, would have to be taught in the state language. However, this year, the introduction of this provision has been delayed by one year until September 2024. Yet the issue of higher education is not settled in the new document.
The 2019 language law would be amended to allow cultural and other events to be held in the language of the minority, with state language interpretation only required if one fifth of the guests, or at least 20 people, do not understand the mother tongue of the national community.
It would be possible to place advertisements and signs in Hungarian, as well as to carry out political activities in Hungarian during election campaigns.
The written press would not be obliged to translate the Hungarian content of a newspaper into Ukrainian and to distribute it in its original number of copies, just as the language quota for broadcast media would be favorably modified. The new draft law would also regulate minority publishing and distribution in a permissive way.
In Kiev, changes to the practice of law on minorities are being forced because the Council of Europe and its competent bodies are adapting the opening of EU accession negotiations to this. The draft law, incorporating the Council of Europe’s recommendations, does not cover the Russian language, but would extend the facilitations only to national minorities speaking one of the official languages of the European Union.
Via Kárpáti Igaz Szó, Featured image: Facebook/Kárpátaljai Magyar Pedagógusszövetség