This time, in the “Point of View” column, we publish rather untypical material. Since the bill №5670-d on the maintenance of the functioning of the Ukrainian language as a state will be discussed, Opinion decided not to consider all “pros” and “cons”, but rather make out what and why the people’s deputies supported. Exclusively for our media, the initiators and co-authors of the draft law, Iryna Podoliak and Mykola Kniazhytskyi explained everything without emotions and passions, dispelled the myths and answered the most common questions.
Iryna Podoliak, people’s deputy from the “Samopomich” faction, first deputy chairman of the Verkhovna Rada’s Committee on Culture and Spirituality, and one of the initiators and co-sponsors of the bill №5670-d
This bill is already in parliament for more than a year and a half. In the end, with the abolition of the law of Kivalov-Kolisnychenko, we created a legislative vacuum. Because the norms concerning the use and exercising of the state language in Ukraine remained only in the Constitution. Accordingly, the use of the language is not properly regulated.
Accordingly, the linguistic rights of Ukrainian citizens concerning the state language are not regulated.
In addition, there is no other state in the world, that would have to support the development of the Ukrainian language than the state of Ukraine. Each state has its own state language: someone has several, someone has state and official, someone even has different languages in every other district. There are different language configurations, that are considered official. But in Ukraine, due to a lot of historical circumstances, the situation was such, that the state language and others began to be used simply as weapons. Not as an instrument of communication, namely as a weapon.
And, in fact, this bill is aimed at regulating the use and exercising solely of Ukrainian language, the state language. Language rights of national minorities are governed by other laws.
About interpretation and reality
A very big problem is that people in our country do not read the texts of laws, but listen to other people’s interpretations predominantly. And politicians, of course, use and interpret them to benefit from it.
The bill is intended only for the socio-political sphere, for the sphere of public life – where the person represents the interests of the state. The bill covers education, mass media, courts, law enforcement, culture, information technology.
It was important for us to maintain the structure of this law and the concept. We saved it. For example, the law has numbers, percentages. These percentages for the second reading can be changed depending on which proposals will be submitted, or they will find consensus during the discussion. Moreover, they can be changed, both in the direction of the increase and in the direction of reduction. For example, a large part of socially minded citizens believes that the Ukrainian language should be immediately used everywhere. This, of course, is a noble goal. A decent opinion, that can be discussed. But we must recognize the realities.
We must provide people with the opportunity to learn the language, they were not able to learn for one or another reason. And we must understand, that this will take years. And nobody will (in fact, nobody plans that) bend across the knee a part of people in Ukraine.
On the benefits of the bill
This bill is intended to create opportunities. It is optimized for the younger generation because those people in the age of 60 or 70 years all their life have been speaking any other language: some Gagauz, some Bulgarian, some Hungarian, some Russian – they are not going to start a civil servant career. That is, they will easily continue to live in that linguistic field and the linguistic environment, that they are comfortable with.
However, if a person plans a career of the authorities of Ukraine (or in local self-government bodies or state bodies), then it is clear, that she will have to prove her level of knowledge of the Ukrainian language. Will it happen tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or a month later? No. And the bill clearly says about it. Because every norm, also in the transitional provisions, has its own implementation term. For example, one norm begins to act after 2 years, another one begins to act after six months, and some others even after 5 years.
About Russian as a tool
People do not expect anything good from the government, and from the president, too. But we need to get some way out of this stereotype. And this bill was signed by representatives of all factions and, in the end, representatives of all factions voted. And we, those who participated in the elaboration of this bill – from politicians to public figures, philologists, lawyers are interested in ensuring, that every citizen of Ukraine feels comfortable and safe on the territory of Ukraine. And we understand, that in order for the Ukrainian language in Ukraine to have a proper status and to be a reality, to be the integrative part of the sovereignty of the state, we need time. We are aware of this. Therefore, people can be calm but continue to say that everything is wonderful in Ukraine, everyone in Ukraine loves the Ukrainian language, uses it and it is not in danger, it’s just not true.
It just turned out that in Ukraine, as in Russia, the Ukrainian language became a weapon. This should be accepted as given. I do not deny the linguistic rights of people, who communicate in particular in Russian. But we must understand, that this bill regulates the Ukrainian language. You will not hear Ukrainian in cities like Odessa, Kharkiv, Dnipro. What to say about the annexed Crimea. You will not find it in lettering. You will not nearly see them. You will see, but this is an exception. That is, there is no getting away from the fact. If we want to see those citizens, who do not know how to speak Ukrainian, performing their state functions or performing their functions in the sphere of everyday life, we see them – these people, we understand this issue. So how can we not understand the other thing? That’s what I was saying, that Russian is used by Russia as a weapon, followed by Russian propaganda and Russian resist.
On creating new structures
The law provides for the creation of two legal institutions, two structures. A national commission on standards for the Ukrainian language, which should develop these standards, should be set up. And it will develop them for a year, or two, or year a half, or half a year. First of all, this institution should be created first, appropriate, properly qualified people should be recruited. They have to develop these standards, approve, discuss: it will be up to two years to develop those standards.
On legal mechanisms
The state, generally speaking – is a coercive institution. But there must be a willingness of society to change something. Undoubtedly, if there are complaints to those newly created institutions, for example, to the official on the protection of the state language, they will react. These complaints must be motivated and reasoned. The complaints will be checked, audited and some prescriptions will be given. The law provides fines. And this is also right. If there are no sanctions for violating the law, the laws do not work.
On dragon sanctions
They are not dragon. But this does not mean that a person must violate the law, pay a fine, then violate and pay a fine again. Should the fines be written down off hand? This is also a question. Perhaps it is worth to start with warnings from the institution of the commissioner. We will consider this option until the second reading. We are aware of what society looks like today. We know how we would like to look in 10, 15, 20 years as a political nation, not built on an ethnic basis. We want to clearly imagine how our communicative tool will develop. Therefore, the state should have some means of influencing it.
Mykola Kniazhytskyi, a journalist, people’s deputy from the “People’s Front” faction, a chairman of the Committee on Culture and Spirituality, one of the initiators and co-author of the bill
On the revision of the bill
Each people’s deputy has the right to propose his revision to the second reading, there 14 days given for that after we receive these edits, the committee will process them and already on the basis of the agreed corrections will bring into the hall. And the hall will decide what to vote for, and what not to vote for. So, as I hope, the bill will pass in the second reading until the New Year.
On “regional” and “other” languages
Our law does not regulate the languages of national minorities at all. It speaks only of the Ukrainian language, of the sphere of its use, therefore this law has nothing about either Russian or “other” languages. It is a great danger to write “regional”. There was a similar danger in the bill 5560. It was written there, that people in any city or village could gather, to vote and communicate there in some other regional language. Unfortunately, in conditions of real war and hybrid warfare, this is a direct path to separatism, so I decided to develop another bill and criticized the project 5560.
On the defence of theses in the EU languages
We have international universities. We have Ukrainians, who defend a PhD or a Harvard thesis, but then this thesis must be recognized in accordance with international treaties in Ukraine. And we do not have the right to reject these talented, brilliant, prominent people studying in Western higher education institutions or Western professors, who wanted to defend their works in Ukraine.
As a rule, the bill is criticized for the fact, that fines are too hard, and no other bill has had any registered liability for violating this law. At the moment we have a single bill, where it is written down. You need to be very careful about this. Because our goal is to protect the Ukrainian language and protect the rights of Ukrainians, who live in Ukraine and use the Ukrainian language, regardless of their ethnic origin. But there are people, who use other languages, so it is very important for us that nobody abuses the norms of this bill.
On regulation at a consumer grade
This law regulates only communication with local self-government bodies, in the state administration, in the media, and the law does not regulate or interfere with the everyday use of the language. And, I think should not interfere.
On language inspectors
There are no inspectors in this law. In one of the drafts such a norm was mentioned, but the committee took it away.
On those, whom the bill protects
It stands for the protection of Ukrainians, those people who speak Ukrainian in everyday life, at home, at work, who are worried about language, who regard the language as a cultural value and who wants it to be preserved, who wants to not be humiliated, that they communicate in that language. By the way, they are respected by national minorities and by all those, who speak different languages. Because if you can respect yourself, you always respect others, and vice versa, if you do not respect yourself, then others are not worthy for you.
On the level of “language proficiency”
This is a disputed question, I think that you just need to know the language because we do not take people to the philological faculty. Maybe a talented economist, who knows the language, understands everything and uses it at work, but in everyday life, at home, speaks another language. And there is nothing wrong about it. If he does his job and has sufficient knowledge of Ukrainian to use it in his office, answer letters, accept letters, communicate with colleagues. This level should be enough.
On those, who will determine this level
The special commission should set standards, presumably, they will be tests, as the external independent evaluation. It should not be subjective, it should be a simple test. A person, who simply wants to get a citizenship or goes to work does not need to know the language deeply, to quote Skovoroda, Meletius Smotrytsky or some of the very old classics. They don’t have to know “Kobzar” by heart, too. Just have to be able to speak and write.
On the appearance of the printed press in Ukrainian
We have set the norm, that 50% of printed press in sales areas have to be printed in Ukrainian. Therefore, it should be beneficial for all regions to print local editions in Ukrainian, because newsstands, at least for the implementation of the plan, have to take them. They will start publishing newspapers or some texts in Ukrainian because they will need to have half of the Ukrainian names.
Text by Dmytro Zhuravel