The Council of Europe’s constitutional expert body, the Venice Commission, based in Strasbourg, believes that all persons belonging to national minorities in Ukraine have the right to the free and unhindered use of their mother tongue in private and public life, in speech and writing.
The experts of the Venice Commission, in an opinion piece on Ukraine’s Law on Minorities published on Tuesday, stressed that persons belonging to national minorities have the right to self-determination, freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion, participation in political, economic and social life, the right to use their own language, the right to education in their mother tongue, and the right to preserve their cultural identity.
They stated that
all citizens of Ukraine have the right to freely choose whether or not to belong to a national community.
Participation of minority members in ethnic public associations should not be a reason to limit their rights and freedoms, they stressed.
They also stated that state integration policies must refrain from measures aimed at assimilating members of national communities against their will.
“Direct or indirect discrimination against members of national communities is prohibited,” they declared. National minorities have the right to collect, store, use, and disseminate information in the language of their community, whether orally, in writing, or by other means.
The state should support and promote the preservation of historical sites and cultural heritage of national communities.
Public events organized and conducted by national communities may be held in their respective languages. Announcements, posters, and other informational materials about events may be reproduced and published in the language of the respective national minority.
It has been established that the languages of national minorities may be used in the mass media in accordance with the law.
At the request of persons belonging to minorities, emergency assistance must be provided in their own language if it is understood by all parties.
In settlements where persons belonging to national minorities traditionally live or make up a significant part of the population, the use of the language of national minorities is permitted on local government signs in addition to the official state language. The same applies to general announcements, including offers, signs, posters and other notices, inscriptions, and other published information.
The state should promote pedagogical and scientific education and training in the languages of national minorities, it states.
The rights and freedoms of persons belonging to national minorities may be restricted, if necessary, in accordance with the law, they added.
Last October, the Mukachevo (Munkács) City Council controversially removed the Turul – the Hungarian mythical bird, from its original stand. A week later, the Ukrainian coat of arms was unveiled on the obelisk of the Turul. Mukachevo, like other Transcarpathian settlements once belonging to greater Hungary, only has a fraction of its population claiming to be of Hungarian nationality by now (8.5% in 2010 vs. almost 74% in 1910).
Via Ungarn Heute, Featured photo: Erzsébet Kokas