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Ukraine Rules in Favor of Language Law Discriminating Against Hungarian Minorities

Péter Cseresnyés 2021.07.15.

The controversial language law of Ukraine has been ruled constitutional by the country’s Constitutional Court, Hungarian News Agency MTI reports based on an article by Ukrayinska Pravda.

Ukraine’s Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that the law ‘on Ensuring the Functioning of the Ukrainian Language as the State Language’, known simply as the ‘Language Law’, is constitutional.

The court reviewed the law after 51 lawmakers turned to the body in June 2019 with the argument that it discriminates against Ukraine’s ethnic minorities.

Using Language Laws to Create Second-Class Citizens
Using Language Laws to Create Second-Class Citizens

"By establishing a single language as 'official', the majority population asserts its domination over national minorities. It creates a sort of second-class citizenship for them."Continue reading

Critics also asserted that the law does not comply with the Constitution because it does not regulate the procedure for using the languages of national minorities. Moreover, pro-Moscow MPs claimed that some of its provisions, in fact, discriminate exclusively against Russian-speaking citizens.

The court began reviewing the claim in July 2020, requiring one year to make its decision.

Ukraine’s Parliament passed the legislation to cement Ukrainian as the country’s primary language in April, 2019, in the last weeks of Petro Poroshenko’s presidency. But the regulation only entered into force in July, after the inauguration of the current head of state, Volodymyr Zelensky.

The law makes the use of the Ukrainian language compulsory in practically every circumstance except for private conversations and religious ceremonies. It also allows for the possibility of legal prosecution for violations of the use of the Ukrainian language and the rules relating to it.

As the law makes it almost impossible for minorities to use their mother tongue, many ethnic organizations have raised their voices against it, including many Hungarian organizations in Transcarpathia.

Ukraine-Hungary Relations Worrying, says Ethnic Hungarian KMKSZ Party
Ukraine-Hungary Relations Worrying, says Ethnic Hungarian KMKSZ Party

László Brenzovics, the leader of Trancarpathian Hungarian cultural association KMKSZ, said Ukrainian-Hungarian relations and the situation of the region’s Hungarian community had taken a worrying turn, and called for bilateral talks in an interview published in pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet on Monday. “Nationalism has been running rampant” in Ukraine since 2014, Brenzovics said, citing “unprecedented […]Continue reading

As a result of the adoption of the language law, bilateral relations between Hungary and Ukraine have been drastically deteriorating in recent years. Despite severe criticism from Hungary and others in the international community, Kyiv continues to refuse the prospect of changing the regulation. In response, Hungary has been blocking the country’s NATO accession ever since.

Featured photo illustration by János Nemes/MTI