October 12th turned out to be a wealthy day of events surrounding Europe’s reaction to the “humanitarian Nazification” policies pursued by the Ukrainian government. The issue at hand is Kiev’s new “On Education” law adopted by the Verkhovna Rada in September which envisions switching the whole country’s education system to exclusively the Ukrainian language by 2020.
The results of the vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on October 12th are overwhelmingly unfavorable for Ukraine. By a vast margin of votes (82 for, 11 against), PACE adopted a resolution which says that the new Ukrainian education law does not ensure proper balance between the official language and national minority languages. Although the resolution, like all PACE documents, is only recommendatory in nature, its adoption is a cold shower for Ukrainian diplomacy and the Ukrainian state as a whole.
Until yesterday, Kiev had managed to skillfully play on the disagreements existing between Europe and Russia. The EU was led to forcibly shut its eyes to obvious violations of the rights of Ukraine’s Russian and Russian-cultured citizens. But now Ukraine is to a certain extent compelled to wage its “humanitarian war” on two fronts. The “Russian front” has not sounded too loud of alarms in Kiev given the Russian foreign ministry’s passivity in regards to protecting the rights of Ukraine’s Russian population. But an altogether different matter is that now Hungary, Romania, and Poland, as well as other European neighbors, have been drawn into the fray.
After all, the “On Education” law is a heavy blow not only to the Russian and Russian-cultured population of Ukraine, which according to the most conservative estimates makes up half of the population, but also to those ethnic groups that have inhabited Ukraine’s outer regions for centuries. The most numerous are Hungarians (around 152,000), Romanians (in the neighborhood of 151,000), Moldovans (around 258,000), Bulgarians (204,000), and Greeks which, including the population of the DPR, amount to over 891,000. (These are the results of the census from 2001). The most active defenders of their compatriots’ rights are none other than Hungary and Romania. However, Moldova, Bulgaria, and Greece have also spoken out against Kiev’s new law.
Without a doubt, however, Hungary and Romania remain the leaders of the critics of Ukraine’s Nazification. Although these countries have complicated relations over Transylvania, they have united against a common enemy on the Ukrainian question.
Following negotiations with his Romanian colleague Teodor Melescanu, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó has announced that the two countries will unite their efforts to fight against infringements on their compatriots’ rights in Ukraine. On October 12th and 13th, negotiations are being held in Kiev between Verkhovna Rada deputies and a Romanian delegation. Officials from Ukraine’s interior and education ministries are also to be involved. According to RIA Novosti reports, if the event does not end well, then Bucharest could opt for tougher moves, including impeding any further integration of Ukraine into EU and NATO structures if the disputed law is not substantially amended.
Even tougher statements have been voiced by Hungary. What’s mote, Budapest has even initiated a “reconsideration” of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement over the new education law, and Szijjártó has warned Kiev that Budapest will oppose Ukraine on all issues of importance related to such. Unlike his Romanian colleague, however, Szijjártó has refused Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin’s offer to meet in Transcarpathia to discuss the law. The stated reason? “It’s already too late.”
Back when the controversial law was just being reviewed in the Verkhovna Rada, the Hungarian foreign ministry was already urging Ukrainian authorities to hold a meeting in Uzhgorod and discuss the bill. The Ukrainian government, however, pointedly ignored this appeal. Only now that the seriousness of Hungary, Romania, and other EU countries’ reactions has become obvious to Ukrainian officials, have the Ukrainian foreign ministry and Cabinet of Ministers scurried to cope with the situation. The Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers, however, is still demonstrating far from a good game. Instead of seeking compromise, top Ukrainian officials have routinely accused their opponents of “playing into Moscow’s hands.” First Vice-Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Irina Gerashchenko, has said that she believes that the PACE vote was influenced by the Hungarian and Romanian delegations and the electronic system. Gerashchenko also accused Hungarian deputies of staging a spectacle for their domestic electorate, thus hinting at the upcoming Hungarian parliamentary elections. Such ultimatums are far from the best way to solve complex bilateral issues. In fact, one is tempted to ponder whether Ukrainian authorities actually think that such a manner won’t deliver the ultimate results.
Ukraine has thus suffered a serious diplomatic defeat – one that is exacerbated by the very fact that it was unexpected. The inexperience and ultimative-hurling style of Ukrainian diplomacy has only multiplied failed results. In addition, it seems like the Ukrainian establishment still hasn’t decided on a course of action. The predominant line demonstrated by Gerashchenko fits the “classical” Ukrainian nationalist view which, in Nikolai Mikhnivsky’s words, says that “All people are your brothers, just not Muscovites, Poles, Hungarians, Romanians, Jews, your enemies, and so on.” This, of course, does not add contribute to any stability of Ukrainian statehood.
It is fundamentally important that Kiev does not divide Bucharest and Budapest’s unified position against Ukrainian Nazism through individual bargaining. Hence why we should all anxiously follow the negotiations in Kiev with representatives of Romania’s foreign ministry.
Originally published on fort-russ.com