Amid Ukraine’s revolution, Bulgarian foreign ministry seizes on language law changes

Amid Ukraine’s revolution, Bulgarian foreign ministry seizes on language law changes


By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia Globe

The evening after a weekend that saw rapid changes sweep Viktor Yanukovych swept from power in Ukraine, Bulgaria’s foreign ministry issued a statement complaining about parliament in Kyiv repealing a law giving minority languages the status of regional languages.

The weekend of February 22 and 23 saw Ukraine’s legislature, the Verkhovna Rada, voting out Yanukovych as president, freeing former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko from jail, appointing new government leadership and overall conducting a rapid-running revolution.

In Western capitals, the moves were generally welcomed while Moscow hit out at the regime change.

Bulgaria’s foreign ministry, which before the weekend had welcomed a deal between the Yanukovych presidency and the opposition and had voiced support for EU targeted sanctions against the regime while adding that they should apply to “radical groups” in Kyiv too, remained silent in the face of the new developments, until the statement came out about the language law.

The law had provided that a minority language could be recognised as a regional language provided that the minority group exceeded 10 per cent of the population of that region.

This meant that Bulgarian had the status of a regional language where there were Bulgarian communities in Bessarabia – Artsiz, Izmail and Bolgrad.

Kristian Vigenin, the socialist former MEP who currently is foreign minister in the Bulgarian Socialist Party government, conferred with Ukraine’s ambassador to Bulgaria and the Bulgarian ambassador to Ukraine about the issue, the foreign ministry in Sofia said.

Vigenin also raised the topic at a February 24 meeting in Budapest of the foreign ministers of the Visegrad Group plus Bulgaria, Romania and Greece, at which “all the participants agreed that this is a step in the wrong direction,” the Bulgarian foreign ministry said.

“The current political leaders in Ukraine must demonstrate responsibility and strive for inclusion of all groups in the Ukrainian society with respect for human rights and the rule of law,” according to a statement by a spokesperson for the foreign ministry.

The issue will be raised again from the Bulgarian side immediately after the formation of a new government in Ukraine, especially considering that the law was approved in 2012 in response to commitments made to the Council of Europe, the foreign ministry said.