Ukraine passes draconian language bill

Departing Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko’s Solidarity and half a dozen other parties passed a language bill effectively relegating minority languages to churches and private conversations.

The move is largely regarded as Poroshenko’s parting shot at challenger Volodymyr Zelenesky, who defeated him in the recent presidential election with a landslide 73.22 percent of the votes.

The Ukrainian parliament passed the bill despite criticism against it from the European Council, the EU’s Venice Commission, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and the United Nations.

Actor, screenwriter and comedian Zelensky (41) only entered politics last year as founder of the “Servant of the People” party, named after a 2015 political satire show in which he plays the role of an outsider history teacher who wins the presidential elections after a video rant against government corruption goes viral.

Zelensky – a Russian Jew – made it clear in his election campaign that he is against any discrimination based on language. The largest national minorities in Ukraine are the Russians, Crimean Tatars and the Hungarians in the Transcarpathia (Zakarpattia) region.

Additionally, Poroshenko’s party also plans to submit a last-minute bill restricting the powers of the next president and complicating succession procedures.

The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) condemned the decision of the Ukrainian parliament in a statement released on Thursday.

“Through adopting the language bill, Ukraine hasn’t made a single step towards becoming a member of the European Union: on the contrary, it has gotten further from it”, RMDSZ President Hunor Kelemen said in the statement.

Title image: Ukrainian and Hungarian textbooks

Author: Dénes Albert