Regional Meeting of the BSPN, Chisinau, Moldova,15 – 17 May, 2013Natalya Belitser,Pylyp Orlyk Institute for democracy, Kyiv
This presentation is an attempt to addressmore practical aspects of a possible regionalcooperation between the different parts ofthe BSPN.It contains no clear-cut answers to thearising questions, nor does it intend to provideready-made solutions.Rather, it is an invitation for a generaldiscussion of issues of mutual interest.
‘Could’ and ‘should’Considering the possibility of regional cooperation, the differencebetween the two verbs implies our vision of its natureThe first option consists is based on the assessment of a generalpotential of the BSPN, of our intellectual and organisationalcapacities, experience, human and other resourcesIf pooled together, they can, in principle, enrich and enforce ourcommon efforts in the wide sphere of peacebuilding activities – forexample, by developing a comprehensive, multi-factorial and/orcomparative analysis of the ongoing conflicts in the region, andidentifying its probable flashpointsThe second approach suggests ‘prioritising’ of our objectives in sucha way as identifying a particular situation that demands urgentmobilisation of the existing resources and using them to prevent adangerous escalation of conflict in this or that area of the Black Searegion; these two approaches are not mutually exclusive.
Steps and stagesIn any case, for the effective cooperation it is necessary:‘Inventorying’ and assessment of all of our resources andabilitiesAnalysing the state of affairs (conflict potential) in theBSRIdentifying those concrete aim(s) and geographic areaswhere our joint – and thus fortified – activities might bethe most effectiveDeciding on what additional resources of CSOs and otheractors are needed and/or desirable (for example, HRNGOs, media, think tanks etc.)
Also, we should take a decision about what kind ofconflicts we intend to deal with: ‘geopolitical’ (separatist) conflicts in the BSR? ‘ethnopolitical’, i.e. related to ethnic, religious and/orlinguistic divides? ‘identity-based’ conflicts – is this broader definition moresuitable for our purposes? are ‘purely political’ or social conflicts (e.g. betweenruling and oppositional forces, gaining momentum in anumber of the BSR countries) to be included into theagenda of the BSPN? other types of conflicts – which exactly?
• After these preliminary stages are passed, BSPN wouldAfter these preliminary stages are passed, BSPN wouldbe better equipped to go further, namely, to developbe better equipped to go further, namely, to developcertain concrete common projects and engage in lookingcertain concrete common projects and engage in lookingfor their financial and organisational supportfor their financial and organisational support• Some of the proposed steps can be done within theframework of the current BSPN regional meeting• For example, each of the participants may express his orher good will to subscribe to one of the followingcategories of joint activities, thus forming the WG for: research/analysis; peace education; civil mediation (direct contacts with representatives of theconflicting sides); preparing and conducting trainings for different targetgroups;the list is open for additional entries.
Language issues as a conflict-generating factorThis factor is proposed as a possible subject of regionalcooperation because:It is topical for a number of the BS countries but not enoughstudiedFor post-Soviet states, it is of special importance because of itshigh sensitivity and politicisation leading to a number of risks andchallengesLanguage and education problems, although being country-to-country specific, often have underlying common denominator/sCountries of the BSR have already accumulated certainexperience of trying to develop adequate language policies; bothfailures and achievements are worth sharing
Conflict potential of language issues:UkraineIn 2010, after the ’Orange team’ was removed from power, andthe Party of Regions took an upper hand, there was an attemptto replace the outdated language law by the new one, favouringRussian and detrimental to the not yet entrenched Ukrainian– formally the only state language, and also all other languagesused by minority groupsDue to numerous protest actions and negative expertiseprovided by the Venice Commission and OSCE HCNM, thedraft law was not included into the agenda of the next twosessions of the VRThat particular ‘language conflict’ was then settled peacefully,without violence from either the police or protesters.
“SAVE YOUR LANGUAGE!”and“Don’t antagonise us along linguistic lines!”
‘Language Wars’ of 2012Sharp escalation of tensions occurred in 2012, in the run-up tothe parliamentary elections planned for October 28Multiple comments, objections and proposals accompaniedpreparation of a draft law ’On the foundations of state languagepolicy’; in May, on the occasion of its passing in the first reading,there was a fistfight in the Verkhovna Rada. Then, suddenly, thelaw passed on July 3, leaving behind a trail of question marksOpposition was taken by surprise, because the version presentedby the two Party of Regions’ MPs – Kolesnichenko and Kivalov –was not previously discussed, and over 2000 proposals foramendments not considered. Besides, the voting took place withnumerous procedural violations, including the demand for MPspersonal voting.
July 2012, protestsHunger strikes and other forms of peaceful protest actionsspontaneously followed the (illegitimate) adoption of thelanguage law. In response, Kyiv Oblast’s Administrative Courtprohibited any meetings at central places of the capital for aperiod between July 4–9; this move was repeated by courts inmany other citiesProtests against the new language bill were backed up bysome NGOs of national minorities, in particular, by a leadingJewish organisation VAAD-Ukraine, Polish cultural society etal.On July 3 – 4, leaders and activists of all oppositional parties,including not yet parliamentary UDAR and ‘Svoboda’, tookpart in a peaceful protest action in central Kiev; this time,‘Berkut’ riot police violently attacked protesters using teargas.
Consequences: particularConsequences: particularNotwithstanding all protests and appeals, ignoring warnings andNotwithstanding all protests and appeals, ignoring warnings andrecommendations of the OSCE HCNM and Venice Commission, on 8recommendations of the OSCE HCNM and Venice Commission, on 8September 2012 President Yanukovych signed the scandalous bill, andSeptember 2012 President Yanukovych signed the scandalous bill, andon August 10, it entered into forceon August 10, it entered into forceDecisions on providing ‘regional’ status for Russian are alreadyDecisions on providing ‘regional’ status for Russian are alreadyadopted by 9 oblasts’ regional councils and a number of city councils inadopted by 9 oblasts’ regional councils and a number of city councils inthe east and south of Ukraine, while three regional councils declaredthe east and south of Ukraine, while three regional councils declaredthe law not to be enforced in territories under their jurisdictionthe law not to be enforced in territories under their jurisdiction Although some languages of national minorities – Hungarian,Although some languages of national minorities – Hungarian,Romanian, and Moldovan – also obtained the status of ‘regional’,Romanian, and Moldovan – also obtained the status of ‘regional’,others did not: for example, this status was denied for Bulgarianothers did not: for example, this status was denied for BulgarianSince actual implementation of the language law requires billions ofSince actual implementation of the language law requires billions ofhryvnyas (absent in the state budget), for all languages except Russianhryvnyas (absent in the state budget), for all languages except Russianit remains mostly on paper.it remains mostly on paper.
Consequences: generalConsequences: generalIn general, these and certain other developments essentiallyIn general, these and certain other developments essentiallypolarised andpolarised and radicalisedradicalised Ukrainian societyUkrainian societyAs a result, bothAs a result, both radical leftradical left (Communist Party of Ukraine) and(Communist Party of Ukraine) andradical rightradical right (All-Ukrainian Union ‘Svoboda’) achieved unexpectedly(All-Ukrainian Union ‘Svoboda’) achieved unexpectedlyhigh results at the parliamentary elections of October 28high results at the parliamentary elections of October 28 (CPU –(CPU –13.18%, ‘Svoboda’ – 10.44%;13.18%, ‘Svoboda’ – 10.44%; UDAR entered the VR with 13.96%)UDAR entered the VR with 13.96%)It is noteworthy that ‘Svoboda’ (‘Freedom’) has never before evenIt is noteworthy that ‘Svoboda’ (‘Freedom’) has never before evenneared the electoral threshold; its best result, in 2007, wasneared the electoral threshold; its best result, in 2007, was 0.75%0.75% ofofvotes. Now, having obtainedvotes. Now, having obtained 10.44%10.44% (and(and 12%12% according to theaccording to thenational exit-poll) it became for the first time a parliamentary partynational exit-poll) it became for the first time a parliamentary partywithwith 37 MPs37 MPs (CPU –(CPU – 32 MPs32 MPs))For comparison:For comparison: ‘Russian Bloc’ received only 0.31‘Russian Bloc’ received only 0.31
Civil Society ReactionsThese highly worrying consequences of a ‘new’ language politicsresulted, however, in one positive development: intense activation andinvigoration of civil societyAll-Ukrainian Committee for the defence of Ukrainian was established,uniting 300 outstanding public figures in spheres of culture, education,science etc. Many initiatives from below (‘grass root level’) to supportUkrainian – in particular, ‘Ukrainian clubs’ inviting Russian speakers toengage in friendly communication in Ukrainian – emerged in a numberof cities, including eastern and southern onesMonitoring of 315 catering companies and services in Kyiv by over 100volunteers during 2012, and their endeavours to persuade the ownersand personnel, resulted in a substantial progress: 61% of restaurants,café, and bars reversed their ‘Russian only!’ policy in favour ofintroducing Ukrainian (see the next slide)
Conflict potential of language issues:MoldovaConflict potential of language issues in Moldova is also rather highAlthough ethnic Russians are not the largest minority here, Russianhas enjoyed a privileged role, having been used alongsideRomanian/Moldovan in all areas of public life; only since 2008,public officials have been required by law to know RomanianLanguage situation in Moldova is additionally complicated by suchfactors as:a) identity problems (‘Moldovan’ versus ‘Romanian’)b) continued education for minorities with predominantly Russianlanguage of instructionc) lack of progress with the revival of Gagauzian: this area remainsoverwhelmingly ‘Russian-speaking space’ despite the establishmentin 1994 of a national-territorial unit Gagauz-Yerid) language problems in the breakaway Transnitrian region
Independent experts developed a set of recommendations ofhow to cope with a difficult task of integrating minoritieswithout assimilating themRegrettably, Moldovan law-makers have not paid enoughattention to these well-substantiated opinions andrecommendationsMoreover, in March 2013, against a backdrop of a renewedpolitical crisis, a draft law was submitted stating that Romanianshall be the language of communication in public dealings withboth state bodies and non-profit organisations, also within allpublic or private institutionsIts adoption may invole further destabilisation of thr internalsituation and deepen the already existing splits within the society
Language issues: TransnistriaAlthough formally, in the Transnistrian region three languages– Russian, Moldovan and Ukrainian – are supposed to functionon equal footing, in reality, only Russian is being used in allspheres of public and social lifeSoviet-times usage of the Cyrillic alphabet forMoldovan/Romanian is demonstratively keptBrutal pressure on Chisinau-subordinated schools with Latinscript was applied, especially in summer of 2004In December 2004, a group of 170 students and parents fromthree Transnistria-based Moldova-run schools submitted thefiles to the European Court of Human RightsOn 19 October 2012 ECHR took a decision admitting, inparticular, that Russia is guilty for violating the right toeducation in the Transnistrian region. The Court granted theplaintiffs 1 million 20 thousand euro as moral prejudiceand 50 thousand euro as representation costs
Common Approach?Therefore, although there is a wide range of different conflict-generating factors in the BSR, some of them, especially among thepost-Soviet states, have common roots, and language issues are amongthe latterThe main problem consists in developing such language policies thatwill ensure further integration and consolidation of our societies bysupporting cultural (including linguistic) rights of both majority andminorities without assimilation of minority groupsThis aim can be gradually achieved through multilingual – in the case ofCrimea/Ukraine, trilingual (Ukr, Rus, Crimean Tatar) – educationSimilar concept is being developed by Moldovan independent experts(in particular, by the Resource Center for Human Rights headed bySergey Ostaff)For the BSPN this provides an opportunity to develop a commonapproach by sharing and analysing both positive and negativeexperience, and then engage in a joint pilot project
What Ukrainian Expert Council of the BSPN can offerOur national network can share with other members of the BSPN theresults of theoretical and empirical research; provide educationalmaterials/manuals/programmes for trainings aimed at different targetgroups, also skilful personnel and trainersThe latter might be perceived by conflicting sides as impartial, havingno selfish interests of their own but possessing deeper knowledge andunderstanding of the background and historical roots of this or thatparticular conflict than some professionals from the more remotegeographic areasBSPN can also benefit from the current Ukraine’s OSCE chairmanship,in particular, by establishing direct contacts with SpecialRepresentative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office responsible forconflict-related issues within the OSCE spaceSince Transnistrian conflict is a priority for the Ukraine’s OSCEchairmanship, we would be interested in focusing on this particularconflict; we believe that essential positive input into its settlementcould be possible due to the concerted efforts of civil society actors –members of the BSPN.
Recommendations• Make inventory of national and international projects dealing withgeopolitical and identity-based conflicts in the Black Sea region in orderto reveal the points of crossover and/or duplication, and aim at developinga more consolidated, better coordinated and cost-saving approach• Apply efforts for establishing closer cooperation with such internationalorganisations and initiatives as the OSCE, BSEC and Eastern Partnership,advocating and promoting their role as the platforms for potentialpartnerships between donors, CSOs and other actors committed to and/orinterested in peacebuilding and conflict prevention activities• Use the BSPN intellectual resources for providing objective and accurateinformation on what the course on ‘European integration’ actually meansin terms of values-based transformation of the transition societies and‘win-win’ strategies for solving the conflict situations• Accept the notion of cultural (ethnic, religious, linguistic) diversity as avaluable resource and asset rather than potential source of conflict• To enable the people’s conscious choiceconscious choice of the integration vector, providethe equally objective information on the Customs Union, Eurasian Unionand other Russia-led geopolitical initiatives, adding analysis of the mostprobable consequences of this or that decision.