Initiatives of Ukraine's Ministry of Interior to worsen life of ethnic minorities in Ukraine

1. Červenec 2017 - 9:45 -- Ed enkins

Despite the persistent effort of Ukraine to meet the EU standards during the last three years of reforms the reality of the Ukrainian state is still far from democratic ideals. Since 1991 when the independence of Ukraine was proclaimed up till now, Kiev has failed to establish constructive and trustful relations with the national minorities living on Ukrainian territory. In spite of the emerging disagreement with a dozen of large ethnic groups in Ukraine the authorities in Kiev have been trying to keep their lips sealed about the national problems, ignoring interests of numerous diasporas during the last 26 years. Say, demands for autonomy on behalf of the Hungarian community of 150 thousand people were totally ignored by Kiev. Tha same thing happened to the recognition of the Rusyn language having the official status in the autonomous Serbian province of Vojvodina.
 
The systematic Kiev's encroachment on the interests of the national communities resulted in limited opportunity of the Moldavians, Poles, Bulgarians, Romanians, Hungarians, and Rusyns to develop their national culture. Their representation in power structures hasn't been guaranteed. After the events in Eastern Ukraine followed by language disputes, the problems of the national minorities moved to a new level and were fairly seen as worrisome by Budapest, Bucharest, and Warsaw. There have been no massive ethnic conflicts in the southern and western parts of Ukraine so far but interethnic disagreements legally staying unregulated over decades may erupt into big problems at any moment. What makes the situation worse is that Kiev does nothing to halt the activities of the nationalistic groupings having regular squabbles with the Zakarpattia Hungarians and Lviv Poles. An ethnic Bulgarian and a city council deputy Vasily Kashchi was beaten up by nationalists in May, 2017, in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, the Odessa region. The man just voted not the way the nationalists wanted him to. This incident provoked indignation of the Bulgarian Diaspora which came forward with the demand of impeachment of the Ukrainian President.
 
Rapid solution of the accumulated interethnic tensions is least expected. Firstly, the unitarian form of the administrative and territorial structure of the country doesn't reflect its peculiar national composition. Secondly, there's still a very high xenophobia level in the Ukrainian society making it highly risky for national minority representatives to stay engaged in social and political activities and resulting in outbreak of negative emotions with the majority of the population once some political forces initiate debates on the national policy moderation.
 
Meanwhile, President Poroshenko having the EU support is still in the position to forward the national policy in the rightful direction following the successful experience of some European countries where all the nationalities enjoy equal rights without any exclusions. Hungary, Poland, and Romania offer their aid. Their initiatives could really improve the life of all the national minorities in Ukraine and substantially low the level of tensions in the border regions forever. But instead of going out of this deadlock in the relationship with the national minorities and come to some form of compromise the authorities in Kiev are broadening the powers and authority of the Interior Ministry of Ukraine which is going to explain ethnic conflicts exclusively as the provocations of national minorities. Ukrainian lawmakers have been officially instructed to oppose initiatives of Bulgarians trying to defend their rights, of Hungarian and Romanian Diasporas, whose demands for autonomy will be treated as a threat to the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Most importantly, the Ukrainian law enforcement officers will gain control over the informational space of Ukraine. Any news coverage of events relating national minorities will be under the Interior Ministry supervision. They will also stuff it with their propaganda.
 
Such measures on part of the Ukrainian authorities violate freedom of speech and entail the right of the Ukrainian citizens for information. The Interior Ministry initiative should be the subject of focused attention of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. This crackdown in the sphere of nationalities may threaten Ukraine and next door countries with the upsurge of new multicultural conflicts and destabilization of the situation in the region, which will be naturally a hurdle on this country's rapprochement with the EU.