Lviv City Council turns to Constitutional Court over language law


The banner reads: Where the Ukrainian language ends is where Ukraine ends

The Lviv City Council has asked the Constitutional Court to give their judgement regarding certain provisions of the Law on Principles of State Language Policy. In the meantime, eastern parts of Ukraine are continuing to declare Russian a regional language.

The decision to make a constitutional submission was taken at a specially called meeting of the Council on Thursday. 

The deputies are asking the Court to state whether regional councils have the right to declare Russian a regional language. Over the last weeks such decisions have been taken by city and regional courts in the South and East of Ukraine., including on 30 August the Kharkiv Regional Council.

On the other hand, city councils in the West of Ukraine have applied to the Constitutional Court, asking that the law be declared in breach of the Constitution.  An application to the Constitutional Court was passed by the Ternopil Regional Council on 16 August, and a statement was passed to President Yanukovych, the Verkhovna Rada and Constitutional Court on 23 August.

Last week one of the authors of the highly controversial bill, Vadim Kolesnichenko [Party of the Regions] said that the decisions by local councils to declare Russian a regional language were basically declarative since according to the procedure in his law, each language which is recognized as native by over 10% of the population, according to the 2001 census automatically becomes regional on the relevant territory.

A clear statement explaining the reasons why the language law has aroused so much protest was given by the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine [VAAD] ,   It stated that

“the vote in the Verkhovna Rada on the draft Law on the Principles of State Language Policy has, we believe, shattered public consensus regarding the language issue, led to civic confrontation and is first and foremost an attempt to gain extra votes.

VAAD feels compelled to state that in our view the draft bill does not resolve the problems faced by national minorities, while instead breaching both Ukraine’s Constitution and the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages and the Framework Conference on National Minorities.

There are indeed languages in Ukraine which require state support, however this is not Russian, but Crimean Tatar, Gagauz, Roma, Karaim and Krymchak, Urum and Rumeisk languages, as well as Yiddish. It is these as minority languages which the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages protects. European legislation upholds linguistic diversity and is aimed at protecting disappearing languages.

The bill voted in will free the hands of those who are trying to totally remove the Ukrainian language from use in the regions where more than 10% of the population speak another language.  We are convinced that this is a crime against the Ukrainian language.

The authors of the draft bill are fighting for a situation where citizens don’t speak Ukraine, don’t study it or use it, instead giving significant preferential treatment ot the Russian language. You cannot resolve the language problems of national minorities in this way.

It should also be noted that the draft Law on the Principles of State Language Policy has not received an unequivocally positive assessment either among national minorities or among the Ukrainian public as a whole. Furthermore Ukraine’s national minorities have not once discussed this draft bill in open, have not heard the arguments of its authors, and have not expressed their own views and comments.

The draft law poses a threat to Ukrainian society since it disregards the State status of the Ukrainian language, does not protect minority languages at risk and arouses dissent and tension in Ukrainian society.

The National Communities of Ukraine wish for integration into Ukraine’s civil society. They wish to build a shared home which will not be destroyed for the sake of opportunistic interests.

A by no means comprehensive list of those who objected to the language law can be found here Yanukovych’s record-breaking legislative feat

New information and the photo from the BBC Ukrainian Service

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