Ukraine's Parliament Approves Changes to National Minorities' Rights Required for EU Membership Talks

Friday, 8 December 2023

On Friday, 8 December, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) approved draft law 10288-1 in general and in principle. The bill will amend some laws on the rights of national minorities in light of the Council of Europe’s expert assessment and in order to meet one of the European Commission’s criteria for the opening of EU membership negotiations.

A total of 317 MPs voted to approve the bill. MP Oleksii Honcharenko noted on Telegram that the version of the draft law that was adopted had been finalised by all factions.

The Parliamentary Humanitarian and Information Policy Committee had recommended yesterday that the Verkhovna Rada approve this version of the bill.

The amendments provide that:

- privately-owned institutions of higher education will have the right to freely choose the language of study if it is an official language of the European Union, while ensuring that persons studying at such institutions study the state language as a separate academic discipline;

- in classes (groups) studying in languages of national minorities (communities) that are official languages of the European Union, the right to use the language of the corresponding national minority in the educational process will be guaranteed along with the state language;

- people belonging to national minorities (communities) of Ukraine whose languages are official languages of the European Union, and who began their general secondary education before 1 September 2018 in the language of the corresponding national minority (community), will have the right to continue to receive such education until the completion of their full secondary education in accordance with the rules that applied before the Law of Ukraine On protecting the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state language entered into force.

Volodymyr Viatrovych, a committee member and co-author of the bill, stated that none of these innovations will apply to Russian as the language of the aggressor state, and that this decision will apply indefinitely rather than for five years, as the government had initially planned. 

Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, said on Tuesday, 5 December that the draft law will contain additional safeguards that will prevent the spread of Russian narratives and propaganda.

Stefanishyna had previously said that the new bill, which is aimed at protecting national minorities, does not provide for the expansion of opportunities for the Russian language.

On 8 November, the European Commission recommended that the European Council begin accession negotiations with Ukraine after four more steps have been completed. One of them was the adoption of changes regarding the rights of national minorities.

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