On Wednesday, January 4, President Klaus Iohannis spoke with Volodymyr Zelensky, expressing deep concern over the national minority law in Ukraine, which has caused worry and dissatisfaction among the Romanian authorities, and representatives of the Romanian community in Ukraine.
The Romanian presidential office’s communiqué announced that Iohannis “spoke at length” about the issues surrounding the national minority law and asked the Ukrainian leader to “quickly find a solution to the concerns.” Zelensky “expressed his complete openness to finding solutions so that the minority community in Ukraine can enjoy the same rights as the Ukrainian community in Romania,” holds the statement. The call between the two heads of state comes after the Ukrainian minority law adopted on December 13 elicited disapproval in Romania.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bucharest, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, and a member of the European People’s Party (EPP) called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to review the legislation restricting education in the mother tongue.
On December 22, 2022, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bucharest called it regrettable that the Ukrainian parliament adopted an “incomplete minority law that allows restrictions on rights and ignores the needs of the national communities living in the country,” therefore, calling on the Ukrainian side to request a new recommendation on the matter from the Venice Commission and to put into practice the proposals of the Council of Europe’s constitutional consultative body.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled: the adoption of the law on national minorities (communities) is one of the conditions for Ukraine to start accession negotiations with the European Union. Bucharest has repeatedly assured its support for Kyiv’s European integration aspirations. Although it understands the effort, it assesses that “excessive haste” resulted in a lack of consultation with the affected communities, even though Bucharest has previously indicated that such discussions with the representatives of the Romanian community living in Ukraine would be necessary before adopting the law.
“the Ukrainian president assured me that the Romanian minority in Ukraine will have the same rights, protection, and treatment as the Ukrainian minority in Romania”— Marcel Ciolacu, Romanian Social Democratic Party chairman
Marcel Ciolacu, chairman of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to intervene in order to revise the law on national minorities recently passed by the Kyiv parliament, which “restricts the right of Romanian children living in Ukraine to study in their mother tongue.”
“In his April speech in the Romanian Parliament, President Volodymyr Zelensky promised to protect the Romanian minority in Ukraine and to begin a discourse with Romania on issues affecting the Romanian minority. After that, during my visit to Kyiv, the Ukrainian president assured me that the Romanian minority in Ukraine will have the same rights, protection, and treatment as the Ukrainian minority in Romania. Therefore, I invite President Zelensky to intervene and review the Ukrainian law on national minorities before it enters into force at the expense of the Romanian communities and other national minorities in the country,” Ciolacu is quoted in the PSD announcement.
The president of the PSD mentioned that after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Romania supported Ukraine on several levels, from managing the influx of refugees, to facilitating the export of grain. “In addition to these measures, which have proven that Romania can be a reliable partner in critical situations, our country fully supports Ukraine’s accession to the European Union. One of the reasons why I personally support Ukraine’s integration into the European community is that it will provide the strongest guarantee for respecting the rights of the Romanian minority living in the country,” says Ciolacu. He added that the positive amendments introduced into the new Ukrainian law are welcomed, but it still contains a number of provisions that are not clear and even contradict European norms on minority rights. “Romania sets an example in the protection of minorities, and we expect our partners and neighbors to provide the same rights, attention, and protection to the Romanian minority in their country, as the minorities in Romania have been enjoying for decades,” announced the president of the PSD.
“sudden steps taken under the pressure of the moment, with which Ukraine tries to impose a new, aggressive policy against minorities, do not help”— Eugen Tomac, EPP, European Parliament
Eugen Tomac, a representative of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, considers it outrageous that Ukraine denies the Romanian community the right to education in its mother tongue.
The politician asked President Klaus Iohannis to explain to Volodymyr Zelensky that both the Ukrainian minority and war refugees are currently receiving Ukrainian-language education in Romania, and the Ukrainian state is obliged to do the same.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Eugen Tomac recalled that there is a Romanian community of nearly one million living in Ukraine, whose members defend the country shoulder to shoulder with other Ukrainian citizens in the war against Russia. According to him, it is an outrageous mistake to deny this community the right to education in their mother tongue. “President Iohannis, who himself comes from the ranks of a national minority, has the duty to act immediately on behalf of the Romanian state and explain to Zelensky that both the Ukrainian minority and the war refugees are currently receiving education in the Ukrainian language in Romania. The Ukrainian state has the obligation to do the same,” wrote the MEP representative in his post. Tomac explained that he considers the position of Romanians to be admirable and correct “regarding the cruel fate of Ukrainians fleeing from bullets” and that Romania should continue to support Ukraine to resist the war started by Vladimir Putin.
At the same time, he believes that Kyiv authorities do not understand that “sudden steps taken under the pressure of the moment, with which Ukraine tries to impose a new, aggressive policy against minorities, do not help.”
As we reported previously, on December 13, the Kyiv parliament adopted a law on national minorities which according to a joint statement issued by the Cultural Alliance of Hungarians in Sub-Carpathia (KMKSZ) and the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Ukraine (UMDSZ) “completely ignores the constructive proposals that were made earlier by Hungarian and other minority group organizations. The legislation not only strengthens all the restrictions that were previously codified in the Education and State Language Acts, but implements new ones as well [and] does not guarantee adequate institutional foundations or legal mechanisms for the implementation and protection of the rights of national minorities.”