PARLIAMENT TO RECONVENE - LANGUAGE BILL FEARS

27.07.12


Parliament 1

The Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, Volodymyr Lytvyn, has signed an order for a reconvened Parliamentary session on Monday 30 July. The date clashes with the pre-election conference of the United Opposition and the official opening of the October election campaign. Arseniy Yatseniuk of the United Opposition has said that the order is unconstitutional, but that all opposition MPs will be there - though they will not vote.

Ten items are on the agenda for Monday, mainly regarding the powers of Verkhovna Rada and state budget issues. However, the Party of the Regions has not ruled out dealing also with the issue of Lytvyn's resignation (the day after the scandalous language bill was passed) which has not yet been ratified.

At the extra session, announced late on Thursday, the Party of the Regions will have another opportunity to get Lytvyn to sign the bill, or parliament - dominated by Yanukovich's party and their allies - could elect a new speaker. President Yanukovich has not said whether he would sign the bill into law. For more on this in English, click here, and in Ukrainian, click here.

Knut Vollebaek, the head of minorities' rights at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, urged Ukraine this week to seek compromise on the issue rather than pass the bill in its current form. He expressed OSCE's concern that the bill was 'deeply divisive'.

“The disproportionate favouring of the Russian language, while also removing most incentives for learning or using Ukrainian in large parts of the country, could potentially undermine Ukraine’s very cohesion,” Vollebaek said. He warned that the law is likely to lead to further polarization of society.

In meetings with Members of Parliament, the High Commissioner also expressed concern at the manner in which the law was adopted. He particularly referred to the parliamentary majority’s refusal to consider any of the more than 2,000 amendments put forward.

“In the present pre-election climate, tensions surrounding the language law could easily escalate,” said Vollebaek. “I therefore call on all parties to engage in a substantive dialogue on the issues raised by the law with a view to finding a suitable compromise.”

The Party of the Regions has always tried to maintain that the law is simply to bring 'European standards' to the issue of ethnic languages. Mr Vollebaek's comments show that European bodies clearly do not believe that the bill, as it stands, does anything of the kind.



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