The working group set up by President Yanukovych to consider amendments to the language law (after he had signed it, acknowledging that it was 'raw' and deficient) has prepared a raft of amendments which have enraged the Party of the Regions authors of the original bill - Kivalov and Kolesnichenko.

Among the amendments proposed are:

  • abolition of the concept of 'regional' languages
  • strengthening of the use and development of Ukrainian as the state language
  • measures to protect minority languages where 30% of the population are native speakers
  • decisions to be taken by the Ukrainian Parliament and not locally

Vadym Kolesnichenko has already formally protested to the President, saying that the amendments destroy the original language bill (which was passed without considering the 2000+ amendments that had been tabled) and are against minorities' human rights (although the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had already commented that the original law gave too much prominence to 'regional' languages over Ukrainian).

This gives the President a dilemma - whether to support his own party, or his own working group. It is not at all clear what will happen in the Ukrainian Parliament and whether the amendments will be voted through or not. Some reports suggest that the President has already earmarked a date in September for the amendments to be considered, though many doubt that anything can be done before the election - especially as the language law was a key Party of the Regions election pledge to their supporters.

In the meantime, confusion reigns. Many eastern city and regional languages have already passed resolutions declaring Russian a regional language, and some have started to take steps to implement the law - particularly in relation to the governing language of schools. Kolesnichenko himself has said that local councils can only 'recommend' adoption of a regional language and that they have no power to make decisions. In Western Ukraine, Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk, amongst others have sent petitions to the President and turned to the Constitutional Court to explain how the law is actually supposed to work.

To read more in Ukrainian, click here and here and in English, here.

Ukrayinska Dumka


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