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Brussels To Drop Criticism Of Ukraine's Controversial Education Law

Inscriptions in two languages, Ukrainian and Hungarian, are seen on a road sign in Berehove, a small town in western Ukraine.

BRUSSELS -- A draft statement expected to be issued at an upcoming EU-Ukraine summit will express Brussels' continued recognition of Ukraine's European aspirations while dropping criticism of the country's education law, according to a copy of the draft seen by RFE/RL.

The statement, which was approved by EU ambassadors on June 13 and subsequently sent to Kyiv for further remarks, says that "we acknowledged the European aspirations of Ukraine and welcomed its European choice, as stated in the association agreement."

The same sentence was present in the final communique of last year's EU-Ukraine summit but some EU member states, including France, Germany and the Netherlands, have recently been reluctant to commit to such positive language regarding future EU enlargement -- most notably in the statement celebrating the 10th anniversary of the bloc's Eastern Partnership in May 2019, where acknowledgment of the European aspirations of the bloc's eastern neighbors was omitted.

In previous EU-Ukraine summit statements there have also been remarks about Ukraine's 2017 education law, pushed mainly by Hungary, which believes that the law restricts the right of Ukraine's ethnic Hungarian minority to be educated in their native language.

Kyiv maintains the law is meant to ensure that all Ukrainian citizens can speak the state's official language, and it denies that the law is discriminatory.

The spat has prompted Budapest to block all meetings of the NATO-Ukraine Commission -- the key format for bilateral cooperation between Kyiv and the Western military alliance -- at all levels above that of ambassadors for the past two years.

During the negotiations with fellow EU member states, Hungary, however, welcomed the new Ukrainian administration's promise to look into certain aspects of the education law and agreed not to mention the issue in the statement, according to sources speaking on condition of anonymity,

But the summit statement is critical of certain rule-of-law issues, mentioning that there is an "urgent need to re-criminalize illicit enrichment and to ensure the necessary independence and effective functioning of all anti-corruption institutions" and adds that "effective rule of law, good governance, and economic opportunity are the best means to tackle foreign influence and destabilization attempts."

The annual summit is scheduled just ahead of Ukraine's snap parliamentary elections on July 21. A day after his inauguration on May 21, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a decree disbanding parliament and called the early vote.

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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.