Expert polls conducting

October 9, 2013

State Ethnonational Policy of Ukraine: assessment of efficiency

Ukraine is one of not many post-Soviet countries with poly-ethnic population structure, where international and interconfessional problem and conflict were always solved without violence and bloodshed. Our country not only secured the rights of national minorities legislatively, but ensured proper conditions for their self-organization and revival as well. Thus, as the President of Ukraine V. Yanukovych noted during his speech at the International Summit of the leaders of national, cultural and religious public unions, Ukraine has all the conditions for the development and the strengthening of the identity of all the communities without exception. At the same time, in the resolution to the Summit, its participants focused attention on the existing problems with both historical roots and connected with geopolitical situation of Ukraine. A year has passed after the adoption of the resolution of the Summit. With the purpose of carrying out the public control of implementation of its decisions, the Institute of Human Rights and Prevention of Extremism and Xenophobia (IHRPEX) together with the Association of National and Cultural Unions of Ukraine conducted an expert poll. This poll also aimed at the assessment of the situation in the area of protection of national minorities and representatives of religious unions and denominations. 

The main conclusion that may be made by the results of the expert poll is that there is the availability of impartial needs in the optimization of state ethnonational policy of Ukraine with the purpose of the increase of its efficiency. The experts indicate certain stagnation and distancing of the state in solving the existing problems in these areas. Thus, two thirds of the respondents consider, that the situation in the area of international and interconfessional relations has either worsened or has not changed. Only one in four respondents indicated the essential positive changes. Only 26% of the respondents also indicated the efficiency of the ethnonational policy implemented by the government during recent three years (40.7% of the respondents consider that the purposeful state policy in this area was absent at all). On the other hand, the majority of the above-indicated problems are not regular; they cover only certain ethnic groups. The matter is in the deported Crimean Tatars returning to the Crimea; in Roma, disadaptation, exclusion and discrimination of which is a pan-European problem; as well as in small ethnic groups like the Crimean Karaites, the Krymchaks and the Gagauz people. The Crimean Karaites and the Krymchaks are ethnic groups, which are actually nearing extinction and loosing ethno-cultural identity. Together with the Gagauz people, they are among the groups, the maintenance of identity and uniqueness of which is the purpose of the provisions of such fundamental international and legal agreements as the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The considerable part of the experts considers the situation of these ethnic groups in Ukraine as unsatisfactory. The key issue of the survival of these peoples as original ethnic groups is the maintenance of cultural heritage and language. 

Certain problem points, in particular, double citizenship, are peculiar for the current situation of Ukrainian Romanians and Hungarians, as well as Jews. However, the experts indicate that these problems do not demand the state’s urgent interference in a frantic rush. As for the issues, which are urgent for the majority of the representatives of national minorities of Ukraine, and therefore need to be solved at governmental level, these are the questions of preschool, school and higher education directed at the maintenance and the development of the traditional national cultures; free proficiency in languages with the status of regional in legal proceedings, official documents, local government, informational, educational and cultural fields; establishment and functioning of mass media of national minorities. All these questions are specified in the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages ratified by our state. “A line” that determines the degree of state’s attention to national minorities is national and cultural autonomy. The majority of experts – 56% – do not support the legislative possibility to provide the national minorities in Ukraine with the similar right. 

As for the religious and confessional communities, the experts note a rather high standard of tolerance and freedom of religion achieved in Ukraine during the post-Soviet times. At the same time, it is impossible to ignore certain problems, which to any extent influence all the religious communities and the believers (religious) as a separate social and cultural group of population. According to the experts’ assessment, they include: 

1. the internal split of Orthodoxy in Ukraine; 

2. the ignoring of the important role of a church as a moral and spiritual support of society; 

3. the unfinished process of the return of religious constructions, obstacles for the building of new religious constructions; 

4. the state’s discrimination, violation of rights and freedoms of the believers (the latter mainly covers the representatives of new religious cults). 

The additional challenge to Ukrainian legislation caused by the signing of the European documents is in the increase of the role of national minorities and their representative organizations in planning, approving, performing and control of efficiency of the decisions concerning the destiny and status of these national minorities. Certain steps in this direction have already been done. However, almost 75% of the experts are convinced that the conditions ensuring the participation of the representatives of national minorities in state affairs are not established at all (33%) or established partially (41%). At the same time, two thirds of the respondents (64%) indicated that legislative support of the rights of national minorities in general is rather satisfactory, however, with certain unadjusted issues. Therefore, the insufficient level of participation of the representatives of national minorities in state affairs is stipulated not by the legislative restrictions, but by the absence of effective mechanisms, channels and bodies to support this participation in reality. It is also significant that there is no clearly prescribed Concept of state ethnonational policy, the necessity of the development and the approval of which was indicated by 22 out of 27 respondents. 

The necessary condition for the improvement of the situation, according to the experts, is the renewal in the system of central executive authorities of the special body responsible for the forming and the implementation of state policy in the area of international relations and protection of the rights of national minorities of Ukraine. The matter is in the renewal because many experts have a negative attitude to the liquidation of the State Committee on Nationalities and Religions of Ukraine. As for the body to replace it, it should be mentioned that it must be not just a directive structure in Kyiv, but it must co-operate with local authorities taking into account the regional and territorial peculiarities of international minorities. The respondents also indicated that the role of public organizations of national minorities of Ukraine in the planning of the course of ethnonational policy of the state must be more significant than it is now. Thus, it would be reasonable to establish a body with powers based on “1+1+1” formula, i.e. equal participation of central authorities, local authorities (local self-government), and the representatives of national and cultural unions of citizens. 

One of the initial points of the state policy in the area of protection of human rights, and in particular, the rights of national minorities, is the assessment of the level of discrimination in society according to certain grounds. 23 out of 27 (85%) of the experts indicated that there are cases of discrimination in Ukraine on the grounds of ethnic origin, language or religion. This fact is not surprising because similar cases sometimes happen in any country with poly-ethnic and poly-cultural population structure. However, the matter is not in facts, but, according to the experts, in the absence of efficient political and legal mechanisms in Ukraine to prevent and combat the displays of discrimination on certain grounds (33% of the experts consider that there are no similar mechanisms or they are not working; 45% consider that these mechanism are not effective). Thus, the monitoring of the situation with discrimination is another one urgent task for state authorities as of today. 

To sum up, it should be noted that the absolute majority of the experts indicated multiculturalism as the most acceptable for Ukraine model of international and interconfessional relations, and the relative majority (46%) indicated that the state and the religious unions must adhere to the principle of non-interference in each other’s affairs, and, at the same time, focus on partnership as a strategic goal for the sake of public benefit. 

Analytical report according to the results of the expert poll “State Ethnonational Policy of Ukraine: assessment of efficiency”