Romanian President, Klaus Iohannis speaks to the press in New York on September 21.

Romanian President Cancels Ukraine Visit Over Language Bill

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The FINANCIAL — Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has canceled a visit he had planned to Ukraine in October in protest against language legislation recently adopted by Ukrainian lawmakers.

Iohannis told reporters on September 21 that the legislation, if signed into law by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, “will drastically limit the access of minorities to education in their native language.”

“We are deeply hurt by this,” Iohannis said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. “We have many Romanians in Ukraine.”

Iohannis said that he and Poroshenko had planned a visit together in Ukraine’s western region of Bukovina, where many ethnic Romanians live, according to RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service.

“The legislation comes at the wrong time and the entire approach, as far as I am concerned, needs to be questioned,” Iohannis said.

Iohannis described his decision as “an extremely…tough diplomatic signal.”

Iohannis also said he had withdrawn an invitation for Poroshenko to visit Bucharest.

The bill, approved on September 5 by the Ukrainian parliament, says the Ukrainian language will be the main language used across the country for school classes above the fifth grade.

Hungary and Russia have also denounced the legislation.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on September 21 that “withdrawing existing minority rights is not usual in European culture” and that it drove Ukraine further from EU membership.

On September 12, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the bill would hurt the interests of Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

But Ukrainian officials reject charges that minority languages will be sidelined.

They note that the law guarantees students from national minorities of Ukraine the right to study in municipal institutions using their language along with Ukrainian.

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It says classes for students from national minorities should be taught in their languages as well as Ukrainian.

With reporting by, AP, Interfax, and dpa


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