The Kivalov-Kolesnichenko Language Bill must not be signed into law!
Appeal by members of civil society to President Yanukovych and the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Lytvyn
On 3 July 2012 the Verkhovna Rada official website informed that the Law on the Principles of State Language Policy had been passed. The signatories of the open appeal state that it would be inadmissible to sign this bill into law for the following reasons.
1) The first reason refers to the fact that the bill had only been passed in its first reading less than a month earlier and there was no text prepared for the second reading together with proposals from those able to put forward legislative initiatives.
“It is also impossible to establish the number of MPs who took part in the vote personally (even on the parliamentary website the number is constantly changing).
2) The draft bill which was passed in its first reading and can be submitted for signature as the adopted bill is in breach of the Constitution and undermines the constitutional order in Ukraine. it contains provisions which make it possible on some parts of Ukraine to not use the State language as the mandatory form of communication in public spheres of life, for example, in the courts, public authorities, bodies of local self-government and between bodies of power at all levels. The reduction by the Law on the Principles of State Language Policy of the State language’s constitutional status indicates parliament’s usurping of the exclusive right of the people to change the constitutional system in Ukraine.
3) The draft law runs counter to the European Charter of Regional or Minority Languages which is aimed primarily at the protection and development of languages which are under threat of disappearing. In breach of the Charter, the draft bill does not differentiate the level of protection of various languages depending on the real situation of a specific language on the specific territory. The Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Charter in their report on the application of the Charter in Ukraine stated that in practice the Russian language is in a different position from other regional or minority languages. Therefore to give the Russian language the same level of protection as other languages “contradicts the philosophy of the Charter.”
4) The draft law does not link the use of languages with the issue of meeting cultural, national, and language needs of national minorities. If one does not view it as an instrument for protecting and preserving speakers of the language, their culture, specific ethnic groups, but as an instrument for regulating the language regime regardless of national features, then one would need to extend the use of foreign languages, particularly English, in the interests of modernizing the country. Ukraine’s tourist infrastructure should not be developed only for events like Euro 2012. The draft law does not propose extension of the use of foreign languages which reduces Ukraine’s attractiveness for investors and reduces its competitiveness in various spheres.
5) The draft law interferes in the activities of civic organizations and other civic associations. For some reason in the article pertaining to bodies of state power and bodies of local self-government it contains the requirement that civic organizations use this or that language during conferences, meetings etc. It also imposes on civic organizations the obligation to carry out measures to develop, use and protect “the regional language or minority language” although this may not comply with the statutory aims of the organization.
6) The draft law is an attempt to create the conditions whereby knowledge of the State language is not needed. Most provisions envisage conditions where a person can confine themselves totally to the regional or minority language with this excluding the need to know the State language.
Through the conditions for use of the State language in Ukraine, the draft law will effectively lead to a situation where Ukraine as a country loses one of its features – the state language as the language of international communication. This can in no way strengthen the country’s statehood and is therefore a threat to Ukraine’s national security.
7) The draft law is an essentially populist document since it is impossible to implement for the vast majority of “regional and minority languages”. Implementation of the draft bill’s provisions demands both huge expenditure from the State budget which is out of reach for Ukraine’s economy and taxpayers, and incommensurate with the aims of the law (we are talking of billions or tens of billions of UAH), and a huge number of employees knowing the relevant languages in state bodies, educational establishments, the media and so forth. There simply aren’t such numbers in Ukraine.
8) The draft law will inevitably lead to a significant increase in expenditure by territorial communications which is possible only if the financial base for local self-government is strengthened. The draft law does not provide for the relevant mechanisms and therefore implementation of the bill’s provisions could deprive local self-government of the ability to carry out its main functions and provide services to the public.
9) The draft law is of low quality which will lead to lack of clarity and create unnecessary load on the courts and legal system in general. Most of the definitions do not comply with the rules of legal documents, a large number of provisions allow for more than one interpretation which will bring about a huge number of legal disputes. The draft bill contains many clashes with legislation, envisages amendments to laws which are not current and is not coordinated with the law on ratification of the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages.
Like most members of the public we are convinced that the draft law is an election move aimed solely at increasing popularity with voters. It is a political attempt to divide Ukrainian society and distract attention from more immediate human rights problems, economic and social issues.
The Law on the Principles of State Language Policy was passed in an illegitimate manner with the hallmarks of usurpation of the people’s power by the parliamentary majority. If it enters into force it will cause irreparable damage to the constitutional order and legal system of Ukraine.
We therefore urge:
- the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada to not sign the draft law since there is no possibility of establishing the version of the law which was voted on or the number of votes of MPs who voted in person, as well as considering other serious infringements of the Constitution and Parliamentary Regulations.
- the President to use his power of veto and return the bill to parliament with the suggestion that it be revoked if it is passed to him for signature.
The appeal is open for endorsement here http://helsinki.org.ua/index.php?id=1341581479