How to Provide National-based Equality and How to Provide Participation of National and Ethnic Minorities in Public Life?

How to Provide National-based Equality and How to Provide Participation of National and Ethnic Minorities in Public Life?

The Seminar on “The combination of different approaches to equality provision and anti-discrimination” will take place in Kyiv on 26-27 September 2016. We will talk with Alexander Osipov, researcher from Germany, about upcoming event, European experience in providing equality and about the steps that Ukraine has to undertake.

Sergey Stukanov: What kind of seminars did you bring to Kyiv?

Alexander Osipov: We conduct a series of seminars in Ukraine, and also in Moldova and Belarus. We have two major topics: Provision of ethnic-based equality and participation of national or ethnic minorities in public life. There are many problems in these fields. The EU countries and other countries have good experience in that. There are similarities between Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus as well as interests of different stakeholders on how to discuss and solve problems. That is why we decided that it is useful to bring together all those experts, who work for the government, for civil society and those who are involved in researching and teaching disciplines on ethnic relations. That would provide us a chance to share the experience, discuss and brainstorm on new recommendations for civil society, legislators, and local administrations.

During one year and a half we conduct two cycles of the seminars. They take place in the capitals of the three countries. Apart from that, we bring our lecturers to regional and district centers. A lecturer comes, talks about his/her country’s or Europe’s experience in general. After that we start a general discussion. People from Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus also have things to share.

Sergey Stukanov: How far does the Ukrainian legislation lay behind from European, for example?

Alexander Osipov: There is a Law on Provision of equality in Ukraine. It  corresponds to the EU legal basis. There is an EU Directive, which also can be found in the legislation of all EU countries. In general, the Ukrainian Law follows these principles. Some details can be adjusted; some parts of the Law are more advanced. But the main issue is in its implementation, and that is the question not only to the state, but to citizens as well, because people do not see the problem here. They face the situations where they think they are being discriminated on the basis of their nationality. But they are not ready to solve this problem through the language of discrimination by using this Law.

Sergey Stukanov: Whom will you conduct the seminars for?

Alexander Osipov: We invite people, who work for state bodies and local administration and deal with those issues. We also invite people from regional state administrations, ministries, civil society and minority organizations, researchers.

Olga Vesnyaka: Who will conduct the seminars this time? Do you think, that the legislation’s part on responsibility should be amended?

Alexander Osipov: The discussion on the seminar will cover the use of different tools against discrimination and for the equality protection. It will also touch upon optimal way for concrete problem’s solution. Our fist lector is Dr. Reetta Toivanen, member of the European Commission’s network of socio-economic experts in the anti-discrimination field and also a professor at the University of Helsinki. We also will have Mr. Aleksejs Dimitrovs – a legal advisor for the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament. We will discuss how to combine different approaches and strategies.

There is an institution in the USA that does not exist in Europe. These are so-called “penalties”. Usually, they do not constitute criminal prosecutions, but are problems that are solved at civil court. Compensation of the harm caused by discrimination usually does not provide an applicant with anything. The reinstatement in work after several months or years of litigation practically does also not provide with any result.

In the USA the court can apply a big penalty towards those whom it recognizes as discriminator. And that is a very serious tool. People know that they will lose a lot, if that case arises and they try to avoid it. This institute does not exist in Europe.

Olga Vesnyaka: What kind of difficulties do you see now in Germany?

The topics of traditional minorities and migration are recognized in Germany. Minorities in Germany are hardly visible. Majority of people does not know that there is a Danish minority, Sorbs, Roma and Sinti, and Frisians. These minorities are officially recognized, protected by the legislation, international commitments, land legislation and constitutions. There is a relatively generous policy towards them.

There is a different policy towards migrants, which also provides them with many things.

Sergey Stukanov: If we talk about those four groups, are they protected by legislation and do not face discrimination?

Alexander Osipov: I would not say so with regards to Sinti. There is always a big number of complaints in media and literature that the traditional Sinti face hostile attitude.

Sergey Stukanov: Do you know that in Ukraine, an unpleasant situation happened in the village Loshchynivka, where after a murder of a girl the community voted to move out the Roma population?

Alexander Osipov: I dealt with that kind of situations. Everything I read about Loshchynivka is very familiar to me. The only good thing about this story is that these kind of cases happen very rarely. The rest really concerns me. I faced the situations when a state was indirectly involved in pogroms. When it happens all by itself, then one can suppose, it happens in the framework of the same scheme.

It was all said correctly in the allegations – that this is discrimination and cannot be tolerated. However, this does not explain and help in concrete situations, when, if to say so, people are getting carried away. I think, those who took part in pogroms, in a peaceful situation would agree that this was not acceptable. The most correct explanation is that the state authorities do not involve – police, militia, local councils try to stay away, and that happens everywhere. They do not have motivation, on one hand, and they do not want to interfere into business of some local authority, on the other hand, of he/she provokes the unrests.

Olga Vesnyaka: What kind of prevention can help?

Alexander Osipov: There is no simple remedy. I can only tell, what not to do. There should be someone who monitors those activities and who will ring the alarm and attract the state’s attention I would count on civil society organizations.

Sergey Stukanov: The decision to evict Roma was made in the local village council , while Roma was not present there.

Alexander Osipov: The only thing that is new for me in this situation, is that the document from the village council sets the moving out. If that would be an informal assembly or meeting, then those who took part could say they were not involved. But in that case, the decision is fixed on paper.

Olga Vesnyaka: What are your expectations from the Ukraine seminars? What do you find interesting to observe in Ukraine?

Alexander Osipov: Everything is interesting, including such situations as in Loshchynivka. This problem was not enough dealt with in the Eastern Europe. Saying that this is illegal does not give any result. There is a need for complex solutions. This means interactions between state authorities and civil society organizations. We would be interested in creating the layer of professionals or civic advocates who would be effectively familiar with the European experience and could correctly discuss those topics and think adequately. This is a serious work and we noticed after having read the training modules of various Ukrainian universities, that political science’s teaching is very outdated. It does not correspond with discussions in the EU and the North America. It would take development of the education system, trainings for civil society and bringing people together. Also there is a need to test the methods of problem solution on local level.