Francesco Palermo: There is no universal practice for minority languages in Europe

Interview by Victoria Vlasenko published on Deutsche Welle, on 22 September 2017. The original version in Ukrainian is available below and here. For a shorter version in Russian see below and here.


ENGLISH (This is a computer-assisted translation from Ukrainian to English.)

Francesco Palermo: There is no universal practice for minority languages ​​in Europe

What language do minority children study in schools in Europe? How to establish a reasonable balance between affirmation of the state language and the rights of national minorities? International expert Francesco Palermo answers questions from DW.

The Ukrainian government has decided to send a resonant draft law on education to the Venice Commission, which was approved by the Verkhovna Rada on September 5. Some of its provisions, in particular, regarding the language of instruction in schools for children from families of national minorities, caused a diplomatic scandal. Because it involves studying the language of minorities only in elementary school. In particular, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Russia and Moldova, whose minorities are among the most numerous in Ukraine, expressed their resentment to Kyiv. Francesco Palermo, the former president of the advisory committee of the Council of Europe (CoE) Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities, thinks that the state’s desire to promote the state language is fully justified, but warns the Ukrainian authorities not to cross the line, which starts a direct violation of the right to free communication.

Deutsche Welle: Professor Palermo, what is the general practice of using languages ​​of national minorities in schools in Europe?

Francesco Palermo: The point is that there is not one common practice or rule that would fit all countries. You have to adapt different circumstances to the situation of each language of each national minority in each individual country. The fact that in Ukraine the position of the Russian language, which is not only the language of the national minority, but also of those who do not belong to this minority, remains unclear, gives the situation specific features compared with the situation of the languages ​​of other national minorities in European countries. It is for this reason that in Europe there are established standards defined by the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which Ukraine must abide by, since it has ratified both of these documents.

So, does the Ukrainian Education Bill violate these two international instruments that you just mentioned? Continue reading