The Ukrainian parliament adopted a new law on national minorities on Tuesday, repealing the previous one, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported. The bill on national minorities (communities) was supported by 324 MPs. The adoption of the law is one of the conditions for Ukraine to start negotiations on its accession to the European Union.
The bill sets out the definition of national minorities (communities) “as the rights and obligations of persons belonging to national minorities, the rights of their representatives and the specific features of state policy for their enforcement, as well as the powers of the central executive body in the field of protection of persons belonging to national minorities.”
According to the news agency, the law provides that persons belonging to national minorities have the right to self-identity, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, freedom of opinion, belief, thought, speech, conscience and religion, and the right to participate in political, economic, and social life. They also have the right to use their national language and to preserve the cultural identity of the community.
For years, the Hungarian government and organisations of the Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia, Ukraine, have been urging Kiev to enact legislation guaranteeing the protection of minorities in Ukraine.
In the past, they have repeatedly objected to the article regulating the use of minority languages of the 2018 Education Law and the 2019 law on establishing Ukrainian as the state language, commonly known as the Language Law, because they see them as a violation of minority rights.
It is worth looking at how much of a coincidence the timing of the adoption of the new Ukrainian law may be, given the often hostile treatment of the Hungarian minority living there by Ukrainians nationalist circles so far. Ukraine’s 2019 language law had put draconian restrictions on the use of languages used by its minorities in all but private use, making it increasingly difficult for Hungarian and other communities to adhere to their national identity.
In the light of the Russian-Ukrainian war, however, Ukraine’s accession to the European Union has once again become a central issue, the introduction of the new nationality law was a prerequisite for further negotiations.
Ukraine is receiving significant financial assistance from the European Union in 2023, after the EU agreed to provide €18 billion in financial assistance next year. The European Council will submit the proposal to the European Parliament next week.
Hungary was strictly opposed to joint borrowing at first. However, it came to light recently that Hungary has approved the amended plan which allows the 26 Member States to individually guarantee the loan to Ukraine instead of the European budget. In return, EU ambassadors agreed to reduce the amount of frozen funds owed Hungary from 7.5 billion euros to 6.3 billion. Moreover, they approved €5.8 billion post-COVID recovery funding. The new Ukrainian law might just be a positive answer to Hungary’s decision about lifting its veto.
Although the new nationality law could be a breath of fresh air for Hungarians in Ukraine, the situation is far from simple. Just recently, Ukrainian nationalists published another anti-Hungarian video threatening Hungarians in Berehove.
In the video, a man in a hoodie is seen covering his face and saying: ‘You live on Ukrainian soil, we know who is Hungarian. We know where you live, we know where you work, we know where your children are.” At the end of the video, you can see a Nazi salute.
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