Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Romania Urge Ukraine not to Introduce Restrictions on Mother-Tongue Study

Sofia, September 14 (BTA) - Bulgaria, along with Greece, Hungary and Romania, have sent a letter to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry urging it not to introduce restrictions on mother-tongue study which are provided for in a new education law passed by the Ukrainian Parliament, said the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry Thursday.

The joint letter by the top diplomats of the four countries was also sent to Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland and OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Lamberto Zannier.

The new education law allows mother-tongue classes for minorities up to the fifth grade after which all subjects with some possible exceptions, will be taught only in the Ukrainian language. The Ukrainian language will become the only language for teaching in secondary and vocational schools, and universities, says the Foreign Ministry.

Over 200,000 people of Bulgarian descent live in Ukraine.

On the Foreign Minister's instructions, a representative of the Ukrainian Embassy in Sofia was invited to Foreign Ministry and the Bulgarian side expressed concern over the consequences for the Bulgarian minority in Ukraine. The Ukrainian diplomat said that the new law is not going to harm the rights of the Bulgarian minority to study their mother tongue and that the purpose of the new legislation is to "strengthen the use of the Ukrainian language".

The Bulgarian position will also be expressed at an upcoming meeting of the Bulgarian Ambassador to Ukraine, Krassimir Minchev, at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.

Earlier on Thursday, Vice President Iliyana Yotova told reporters in Parliament that she expects an outright reaction by the Bulgarian state institutions to the new education law in Ukraine which she said limits the rights of minorities to study in their mother tongue.

The problem with children of Bulgarian descent, for example, means that as they cannot use Bulgarian schoolbooks after the 4th grade they will have less chances to compete with their peers when applying for Bulgarian universities, the Vice President said.

She argued that Bulgaria's reaction should be absolutely categorical at all levels.

Source: Sofia