Ukrainian law on education: implementing the conclusions of the Venice Commission

The Assembly today expressed its concern about the articles relating to education in minority languages of the new Education Act recently passed by the Verkhovna Rada.

While noting that the authorities have submitted the text to the Venice Commission for an opinion, the Assembly expressed dissatisfaction that “this step was not taken before the adoption of the Education Act”. It asked the Ukrainian authorities “to fully implement the forthcoming recommendations and conclusions of the Venice Commission and to modify the new Education Act accordingly”.

The adopted text, based on a report by Andres Herkel (Estonia, EPP/CD), calls on the relevant stakeholders to seek ‘more consensual arrangements”, taking into account three principles: the legitimacy for States to promote the learning of the official language as a ”factor of social cohesion and integration”, the fact that “language is an essential component of individual and collective identity” and consequently measures to promote the official language must go hand in hand with measures to protect and promote the languages of the national minorities, and the principle of non-discrimination.

According to the parliamentarians, based on these principles and the encompassing concept of “living together”, “the new legislation does not appear to strike an appropriate balance between the official language and the languages of national minorities”. In particular, the new law entails a heavy reduction in the rights previously recognised to “national minorities” concerning their own language of education.

The Assembly is aware that Ukrainian-speaking minorities in neighbouring countries are not entitled to monolingual education in their own languages and do not benefit from arrangements which seek to promote bilingual education. Therefore, it recommended that the authorities of neighbouring countries, which legitimately call for the protection of their minorities, “show readiness to offer to the Ukrainian communities resident in their respective countries similar arrangements to those that they claim for their own minorities”.