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Ukraine’s acting president orders new language law to be drafted

February 27, 22:58 UTC+4 KIEV
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KIEV, February 27, (ITAR-TASS). Ukraine’s acting President Alexander Turchinov has ordered the creation of a working group that will “urgently draft a new language law,” the press serving of the ruling Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party said on Thursday, February 27.

“The draft law should be worked out urgently, taking into account the speculations that surround this issue. I instruct the relevant committee to set up a joint working group together with linguists, philologists and specialists on social issues in order to draft a new law. Unlike the previous one, a new language law, which must be drafted urgently, will be completely balanced,” Turchinov said.

He said the new law would take into account the interests of eastern and western regions of Ukraine, all ethnic groups and ethnic minorities.

On February 23, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) cancelled the 2012 Law on the “Principles of the State Language Policy,” which had been in force since August 10, 2012 and which had given Russian the status of regional language in regions where it was native for at least 10 percent of people. Russian was given the status of regional in 13 of 27 Ukrainian regions.

However, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors warned that the parliament’s decision to cancel this law could lead to further unrest, especially in a context where language policy is such a divisive issue.

The High Commissioner urged the authorities to take measures to ensure that the concerns of all ethnic and linguistic groups are being taken into account. She encouraged the authorities to refrain from taking any hasty actions that could lead to further escalation.

“At this crucial time in its history, Ukraine needs leaders, laws and policies that unite rather than divide. Like my predecessors, I call on the Ukrainian authorities to adopt a balanced and inclusive approach towards language policy. The authorities have to consult widely to ensure that future language legislation accommodates the needs and positions of everyone in Ukrainian society, whether they are speakers of Ukrainian, Russian or other languages,” Thors said. Consultations should also encompass international organisations, including the Council of Europe and the OSCE, to ensure that any new language legislation meets European standards.

The European Parliament also urged the Ukrainian authorities to protect citizens’ right to use the Russian and other minority languages. It said new language legislation should be consistent with Ukraine’s obligations assumed under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

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