on the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 18 December 2013
at the 1187bis meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Articles 24 to 26 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (hereinafter referred to as “the Framework Convention”),
Having regard to Resolution Res(97)10 of 17 September 1997 setting out rules adopted by the Committee of Ministers on the monitoring arrangements under Articles 24 to 26 of the Framework Convention;
Having regard to the voting rule adopted in the context of adopting Resolution Res(97)10;1
Having regard to the instrument of ratification submitted by Ukraine on 26 January 1998;
Recalling that the Government of Ukraine transmitted its State report in respect of the third monitoring cycle under the Framework Convention on 7 May 2009;
Having examined the Advisory Committee’s third opinion adopted on 22 March 2012, as well as the written comments of the Government of Ukraine received on 28 March 2013;
Having also taken note of comments by other governments,
1. Adopts the following conclusions in respect of Ukraine:
a) Positive developments
Ukraine has maintained a generally positive approach towards the Framework Convention and its monitoring system and has been co-operating constructively with the Advisory Committee. The authorities also continue to pursue an overall inclusive approach to the personal scope of application of the Framework Convention. Preparations are ongoing for the next population census, which has been postponed to 2013, including as regards the suitable training of enumerators.
Amendments to the Criminal Code were adopted in 2009, extending the list of offences for which racist motivation is considered an aggravating circumstance, and increasing the maximum sentence for crimes involving racial hatred. A new law “On the Principles of Prevention and Combating Discrimination in Ukraine” was adopted in September 2012, and the Human Rights Monitoring Department within the Ministry of Interior has engaged in training and awareness-raising activities to improve the performance and accountability of law enforcement agents.
Following the dissolution of the State Committee for Nationalities and Religions, the Ombudsman Office has increased its engagement in issues pertaining to the protection of persons belonging to national minorities, while the Department of Religious Affairs and Nationalities of the Ministry of Culture has taken over the core responsibilities in the field of inter-ethnic relations and national minority protection.
Continued support is provided to a range of national minority cultural activities, including the allocation of financial support from the Ministry of Culture to six minority language print media, and the process of restitution of religious property to national minority communities is ongoing. A Strategy for the Protection and Integration of Roma in Ukraine by 2020 was adopted by the government in March 2013 to increase efforts to address the situation of Roma.
The new Law on the Principles of State Language Policy, which entered into force in August 2012, allows for minority languages to be granted the status of regional language if spoken by at least 10% of the population in a given territory.
A special consultative council for national minorities was established under the remit of the Ministry of Education in 2010. It serves as a constructive platform for discussions on issues of concern to national minorities, such as those related to textbooks and their portrayal of minority cultures, as well as the languages used in external school leaver examinations. Positive changes were introduced in 2010 in this regard, and exams have since been provided in the seven languages of schooling. A pedagogical centre for Hungarian language teachers of all subjects was created in Uzhgorod in 2009, and efforts have been made to introduce bilingual and multilingual teaching methodologies in a number of schools, including in the Crimea.
b) Issues of concern
A comprehensive legal framework pertaining to minority rights is still outstanding. The 1992 Law on National Minorities remains in force, despite being outdated and inconsistent with the new Law on the Principles of State Language Policy. No significant progress has been made with regard to the status of formerly deported peoples or the restoration of their rights as a relevant draft law has not advanced past the first reading in parliament. The dissolution of the State Committee for Nationalities and Religions at the end of 2010 is widely seen as having left an institutional vacuum as regards minority rights protection.
There is still no comprehensive system to gather up-to-date information on the number and access to rights of persons belonging to national minorities, including disadvantaged groups such as the Roma and Crimean Tatars. This hampers the development and implementation of targeted measures towards the promotion of their full and effective equality. Following the adoption of the Government Strategy for the Integration of Roma, a comprehensive national action plan must be adopted in close consultation with representatives of Roma communities to ensure that the persistent inequalities faced by Roma in a number of areas, including education, the provision of health services, housing and employment, as well as within the justice system, are adequately addressed.
Crimean Tatars as well as other formerly deported persons continue to face inequalities due to the continued lack of a legislative framework pertaining to the restitution and compensation for the loss of farmland suffered as result of the deportations. They often live in sub-standard conditions on unauthorised settlements with limited access to public services, utilities and infrastructure. Resolute steps must be taken to ensure that the dialogue between the authorities and Crimean Tatar representatives concerning land issues, including as regards adequate compensation and questions relating to the unauthorised occupation of land, is re-established and progress made in the solution of land and housing disputes.
Following the adoption of non-discrimination legislation in September 2012, amendments to the law were introduced to parliament in February 2013. Any further legislative steps should be consulted closely with all relevant State institutions, including the Ombudsman Office, as well as independent experts and members of civil society. Relevant provisions of the Criminal Code aimed at adequately sanctioning racially-motivated crime are only rarely invoked. Inter-ethnic hostility and racially-motivated offences are increasing, particularly in Western Ukraine and the Crimea, and are sometimes fuelled by the local media as well as some politicians. Allegations of police misconduct and harassment, including the excessive use of force, against some minority groups in particular, continue to be reported. An independent complaints mechanism should be established to ensure that police misconduct is effectively investigated and sanctioned.
Clear criteria and transparent procedures for the allocation of financial support for the cultural activities of national minority associations are still lacking which prompts the perception that support is granted arbitrarily and risks creating tensions between the various groups concerned. In addition, minority representatives do not have sufficient opportunities to participate in the decision-making processes on the allocation of support. Due attention should be paid to ensure that all minority communities, including the numerically smaller ones, have equal access to financial and general administrative support, including as regards premises for their organisations. More efforts must also be made regarding the restitution of religious property to national minority religious communities, and due attention paid to the particular significance of religious buildings and monuments for their cultural and religious identities.
Russian language media are very present in the Ukrainian media space, while continued high language quotas imposed to promote the State language affect disproportionately the languages of numerically smaller minorities. The procedure for the allocation of licences and frequencies is not always implemented in an equal manner, unduly affecting media outlets of numerically smaller minority communities. The support for minority language print and broadcast public media is considered insufficient to meet the needs of national minority communities. More efforts should be made to recruit minority representatives into the media and train mainstream journalists to ensure that they are more sensitive towards the concerns of national minority communities.
The Law on the Principles of State Language Policy was adopted without taking into account the numerous proposals for amendments that had been put forward and without comprehensively consulting representatives of all minority communities. The lowering of the applicable threshold for the use of minority languages in relations with local authorities from 50% to 10% is reported to benefit mainly Russian-speakers, as the languages of numerically smaller minorities require targeted and sustained support to promote a conducive environment for their use in public. Concerted efforts must be made to ensure that persons belonging to all minority communities can effectively enjoy their linguistic rights while promoting the State language as the main language of communication.
Despite some progress made concerning minority language education, clear legal guarantees for the provision of minority language instruction are still lacking and the decision on opening minority language classes is left to the local authorities. This results in discrepancies in the levels of enjoyment of the right to minority language instruction in the different regions. There are only fifteen Crimean Tatar language schools and seven Ukrainian language schools in the Crimea which is insufficient to meet the needs of the communities concerned. Minority language education in Western Ukraine is also insufficient, particularly according to Romanian and Polish minority representatives, who point to a considerable number of villages without minority language instruction despite being inhabited substantially by these minority communities.
More efforts must be made to ensure that minority language institutions receive an adequate supply of textbooks, as well as in the area of teacher training for instruction in minority languages.
The situation regarding access to education for Roma children remains serious. While considerable efforts have been made at local level, including with the support of Roma mediators, the absence of a comprehensive national action plan in the area of education prevents sustainable progress. Roma children, particularly girls, continue to experience high drop-out rates and under-achievement. Continued reports of segregation of Roma children in special classes or schools, which are in addition often reported to be in very poor condition, are of deep concern. Awareness among the relevant authorities and society in general of the specific concerns and needs of the Roma communities remains limited.
Existing consultative councils where national minority representatives are included appear not to be consulted regularly, nor do they have an effective impact on relevant policymaking. Decisions regarding the composition of advisory or consultative mechanisms must be taken transparently and in close consultation with the minority communities concerned to ensure that they constitute effective mechanisms for the promotion of participation of persons belonging to national minorities in public life. The composition of the Council of the Crimean Tatar People under the President was unilaterally amended by the President which has resulted in a loss of confidence and dialogue between Crimean Tatar representatives and the authorities. In addition, serious obstacles continue to exist for persons belonging to national minorities to obtain representation in elected bodies.
The dissolution of the State Committee for Nationalities and Religions at the end of 2010 has resulted in an increase of applications to the Ombudsman Office from persons belonging to national minorities as well as from minority associations. Urgent action should be taken to re-establish a specialised government body with sufficient financial and human resources to co-ordinate the activities of the various ministries concerned with issues pertaining to national minority protection, such as language policy, education, social policy and land distribution.
2. Adopts the following recommendations in respect of Ukraine:
In addition to the measures to be taken to implement the detailed recommendations contained in sections I and II of the opinion of the Advisory Committee, the authorities are invited to take the following measures to improve further the implementation of the Framework Convention:
Issues for immediate action:2
- take all necessary steps to develop without delay and in close consultation with national minority representatives a comprehensive and consistent legislative framework pertaining to national minority protection and the status and restoration of rights of formerly deported persons, including as regards access to land;
- take comprehensive and targeted measures to promote the full and effective equality of persons belonging to disadvantaged minorities, such as the Roma and Crimean Tatars, particularly regarding access to education and housing;
- re-establish a specialised governmental body with sufficient financial and human resources to co-ordinate all issues relating to the protection of persons belonging to national minorities.
- develop effective mechanisms for the collection of updated information outside the population census on the number and situation of persons belonging to national minorities, in close consultation with national minority representatives and with due respect for relevant international personal data protection standards;
- reinforce efforts to return religious property to minority communities and establish objective and transparent criteria for the allocation of support to the cultural activities of national minorities;
- ensure inclusive and effective consultations related to the development of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation; redouble efforts to investigate effectively, prosecute where appropriate and sanction incidents of neglect or misconduct by law enforcement officials; condemn unequivocally any incitement to inter-ethnic hostility in the media and political sphere;
- reconsider the imposition of rigid language quotas in the broadcast media and promote the broadcasting of minority language programmes, particularly as regards numerically smaller minorities; eliminate stereotyping of national minorities and take measures to increase the reflection of their concerns in the media;
- approve a clear and coherent legislative framework for the effective implementation of the Language Law3 and ensure that the promotion of widely spoken languages is not detrimental to the linguistic rights of persons belonging to numerically smaller minorities;
- provide clear legal guarantees for the right to receive education in and of minority languages and regularly monitor their effective implementation; increase and diversify opportunities to study in minority languages at university level; increase efforts to provide minority language institutions with adequate supplies of quality textbooks and strengthen opportunities for the training of minority language teachers; adopt clear law provisions in order to ensure the use of minority languages for access to higher education;
- take appropriate steps to create effective consultative mechanisms for persons belonging to national minorities; ensure that minority representatives are involved in and have a substantial impact on all relevant decision-making processes affecting them; increase opportunities for persons belonging to national minorities to be represented in elected bodies.
3. Invites the Government of Ukraine in accordance with Resolution Res(97)10:
a. to continue the dialogue in progress with the Advisory Committee;
b. to keep the Advisory Committee regularly informed of the measures it has taken in response to the conclusions and recommendations set out in sections 1 and 2 above.
1 In the context of adopting Resolution Res(97)10 on 17 September 1997, the Committee of Ministers also adopted the following rule: “Decisions pursuant to Articles 24.1 and 25.2 of the Framework Convention shall be considered to be adopted if two-thirds of the representatives of the Contracting Parties casting a vote, including a majority of the representatives of the Contracting Parties entitled to sit on the Committee of Ministers, vote in favour”.
2 The recommendations below are listed in the order of the corresponding articles of the Framework Convention.
3 Law of Ukraine on the Principles of the State Language Policy.