Tomorrow, July 1, 2023, the Law of Ukraine "On National Minorities (Communities) of Ukraine" enters into force, the need for adoption of which is foreseen by the Law of Ukraine "On Ensuring the Functioning of the Ukrainian Language as the State Language".
The law is aimed at implementing the rights and freedoms of persons belonging to national minorities (communities), improving the legal principles of state policy in the sphere of protection, and ensuring the rights of national minorities (communities) of Ukraine, in particular, the right to self-identification, use of languages of national minorities (communities), participation in political, economic, social and cultural life, etc.
It is important that during the preparation for the adoption of this law, the proposals of the State Language Protection Commissioner as well as leading experts, and civil society institutions were taken into account, thanks to which it was possible to adopt a document that creates new opportunities for the use of national minority languages but does not narrow the scope of functioning of the state language.
"The entry into force of the Law "On national minorities (communities) of Ukraine" is an important step of Ukraine toward European integration. This is our contribution to the future victory over the enemy, as it consolidates the Ukrainian nation, and strengthens the unity of all citizens regardless of ethnic, cultural, linguistic, or religious affiliation," Taras Kremin said.
At the same time, as is known, the Venice Commission recently expressed its opinion on the Law on National Minorities, which, among other things, relates to the provisions of the language law.
We can state that some recommendations of the Venice Commission do not take into account the provisions contained in the decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine regarding the constitutionality of the Law on the State Language of July 14, 2021, №1-r/2021. This decision is an integral part of the legal system of Ukraine; it is mandatory, final, and cannot be appealed. The decision of the Constitutional Court contains comprehensive responses to the warnings of the Venice Commission, which are a convincing argument in further negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU," the Commissioner underlined.
In particular, the decision of the Constitutional Court provides a substantiation that the mention of the russian language in Article 10 of the Constitution does not give this language any "privileged" position in comparison with other languages of national minorities, "since this would contradict the fundamental prohibitions of discrimination in such a field of legal regulation as the national mode of development, use, and protection of languages of national minorities."
It also contains answers regarding the possible, in the opinion of the Venice Commission, the restriction by the Language Law of the rights to education in the languages of national minorities: the functioning of the state language and the use of the languages of national minorities as the realization of their rights cannot be opposed to each other. The state should ensure equal rights in mastering the state language - that for persons belonging to a titular nation and for representatives of national minorities - taking into account the role and function of the state language as a lingual integrator".
At the same time, the Constitutional Court stressed the need to fully master the state language by national minorities living in Ukraine: The state is plenipotentiary, in setting the strictest requirements for the full mastering of the state language… The model of education should ensure such a proportion of the use of the language of the national minority and the state language as languages of instruction, when, on the one hand, the goal of preserving the identity of persons belonging to the national minority is achieved, and on the other hand, it does not harm the full mastery of the state language to meet the needs of such persons to fully participate in public life and democratic processes.
Regarding the separation of the "Tatar language" from other languages of indigenous peoples and national minorities, which, among other things, the Venice Commission emphasizes, the CCU made a conclusion in which it considers legally groundless the statement that in the language law "selective use and selective protection of the language of one indigenous people" - the Crimean Tatar - causes "violation of the rights and freedoms of all other indigenous peoples and national minorities living in Ukraine".
Also, the CCU considers that the approach existing in the language law, within which the use of the languages of national minorities of Ukraine belonging to the official languages of the EU and the languages of national minorities of Ukraine, which are not official languages of the EU, is differentiated, has a constitutional basis: "The provisions of the law, which allow applying in certain areas of public life the language of national minorities, which at the same time are the official languages of the European Union, should be considered as a tool to promote Ukraine to the values of a united Europe and the possible future participation of Ukraine in its further formation."