Skip navigation

Daily updates from the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine available. Read more

117175
English
Yes
No
Statement by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities on her recent visits to Ukraine

The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities has been closely following developments in Ukraine since the office was established in 1993 to act as an instrument of conflict prevention at the earliest stage. The successive High Commissioners have paid particular attention to the inter-ethnic situation in Crimea, legislation regulating minority rights and language use, and the education of national minorities.

The High Commissioner’s mandate requires that she works behind the scenes and in confidence. She therefore issues few public statements. This statement provides an update on her most recent visits. Currently, High Commissioner Astrid Thors’ main concerns are language policy and the situation in Crimea.

Thors visited Kyiv, Donetsk, Luhansk and Odessa from 23 to 28 March 2014, and Kyiv from 1 to 3 April. She made an earlier visit, which also included a trip to Crimea, on 4 to 6 March as part of a high-level OSCE delegation together with Ambassador Tim Guldimann, the Special Envoy of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office. Her office is also contributing to a Human Rights Assessment Mission, in co-operation with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

During her most recent two visits, Thors was pleased to hear that the interim Government does not intend to make any hasty decisions regarding language policy. “There can be no doubt that the 2012 Law on the ‘Principles of the State Language Policy’ remains in force, and, legally, nothing has changed regarding the status of languages,” she said. “Therefore, there is no need for the Ukrainian Parliament to rush to make any new decisions. I hope that all political forces can adhere to this opinion.”

She reiterated her comments made in her public statement of 24 February that, to avoid increasing tensions, the authorities should ensure that the concerns of all ethnic and linguistic groups are taken into account and that consultations also encompass international organizations to ensure that any new language legislation meets European standards. She added that time is also needed to evaluate the merits and shortcomings of the 2012 Language Law, as well as its implementation in practice.

The High Commissioner has been able to speak to a wide range of interlocutors to assess the situation on the ground. She expressed particular concern that she heard a lot of conflicting impressions that are contributing to a climate of fear and confusion. Contradictory information leads to an “information war”. Any measures taken to restrict access to cross-border transmission of media should strictly comply with international standards, as stated by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. In addition, many people told her they are concerned about security and the presence of militarized groups with an unclear status. Thors commended the interim Government’s efforts to address the security issues in the country, including the disarmament of armed groups that exist outside of the legal framework, in order to combat such perceptions.

Thors also remains concerned about the situation in Crimea. Following her statement on 6 March, the High Commissioner reminded the authorities in effective control of Crimea that they remain responsible for the human rights, including minority rights, of all persons residing on the peninsula. “The people in Crimea, in particular the Crimean Tatars and the Ukrainian community, are in a precarious position. I urge the authorities in effective control to refrain from actions that exclude people from employment in the public and private sectors or force them to give up their property.”

She again drew particular attention to The Bolzano/Bozen Recommendations on National Minorities in Inter-State Relations, which state that while a State might have an interest in supporting persons belonging to national minorities in other States, “no State may exercise jurisdiction over the population or part of the population of another State within the territory of that State without its consent” because “the respect for and protection of minority rights is primarily the responsibility of the State where the minority resides.”

Astrid Thors
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities
The Hague, 4 April 2014

4 April 2014
The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities has been closely following developments in Ukraine since the office was established in 1993 to act as an instrument of conflict prevention at the earliest stage. The successive High Commissioners have paid particular attention to the inter-ethnic situation in Crimea, legislation regulating minority rights and language use, and the education of national minorities...
No
116766
English
Yes
No
Deadline for Max van der Stoel Award nominations extended

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors announced today that the deadline for making nominations for the Max van der Stoel Award will be extended to 20 April 2014. The original deadline was 1 April.

The 50,000 EUR Award recognizes extraordinary and outstanding achievements in improving the position of national minorities in OSCE participating States.

Although nominations can only be formally submitted by OSCE field operations, institutions, and delegations of OSCE participating States, Thors encouraged other interested people to forward names of individuals, groups or institutions to an OSCE field operation, institution or delegation, which can subsequently choose to nominate such candidates on their behalf.            

Nominations must be submitted to the HCNM by 20 April 2014. They can be made to the office of the HCNM, by email to mvds@hcnm.org or through the online nomination form at www.maxvanderstoelaward.com/nominate. Please include the name of the candidate, relevant contact information and the reason for the nomination (100–200 words).

The Award will be presented by Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans in a ceremony in The Hague on 16 October 2014.

Established in 2001 by the Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands, the Max van der Stoel Award honours the prominent Dutch statesman who was the first OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, while also highlighting issues related to national minorities.

25 March 2014
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors announced today that the deadline for making nominations for the Max van der Stoel Award will be extended to 20 April 2014. The original deadline was 1 April...
files/images/web/6/5/1908.jpg
files/images/hires/6/5/1908.jpg
The first OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Max van der Stoel (seen here in Vukovar, Croatia), is often referred to as the "silent diplomat" for his work to resolve ethnic conflicts.
Yes
116637
English
116637
Yes
No
OSCE launches National Dialogue project in Ukraine

VIENNA, 20 March 2014 – The OSCE today started to deploy  a team of 15 international experts to Ukraine as part of a National Dialogue project to identify areas for further OSCE activities to support confidence-building between different parts of Ukrainian society.

The project team will be deployed for four weeks in selected locations agreed with the Ukrainian government to gather information about issues of concern, in particular political, humanitarian and minority issues.

The project aims to contribute to a peaceful and sustainable political transition in the country and to immediately address problematic issues through supporting a national, inclusive and impartial dialogue throughout Ukraine.

The team is being deployed following a request by Ukraine. The project will be carried out by the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine.

The 15-person expert team is headed by a Team Leader, Ambassador Hidajet Biščević of Croatia, and supported by ten locally-recruited administrative staff, interpreters and drivers.

The team will submit a final report with concrete recommendations on how the OSCE can support dialogue and restore confidence in Ukraine on the local, regional and national levels.

Note to editors:

This National Dialogue project is different from other initiatives taken by OSCE and its participating States, such as

  • the visit by military and civilian personnel from OSCE participating States to Ukraine under the Vienna Document 2011 to dispel concerns of unusual military activity; or
  • the election observation mission for the early presidential elections in Ukraine scheduled for 25 May 2014;
  • a possible future monitoring mission, which will go ahead if agreed by consensus of the 57 participating States.
20 March 2014
VIENNA, 20 March 2014 – The OSCE today started to deploy a team of 15 international experts to Ukraine as part of a National Dialogue project to identify areas for further OSCE activities to support confidence-building between different parts of Ukrainian society...
files/images/hires/d/1/116672.JPG
Ambassador of Switzerland to Ukraine Christian Schoenenberger, Personal Envoy of CiO on Ukraine Tim Guldimann, OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine Madina Jarbussynova announce launch of National Dialogue Project at a press-conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, 20 March 2014
Yes
116454
English
Yes
No
OSCE Mission to Skopje promotes democratic values in youth party branches ahead of elections

Raising awareness among the youth branches of political parties on the importance of democratic values in an election process was the aim of a conference organized by the OSCE Mission to Skopje and the MOST non-governmental organization on 14 to 16 March 2014.

More than 55 representatives of 19 youth branches from different political parties came together to discuss their role within their organizations during election time, as well as lessons learned from political practice.

“Through direct and sincere discussion, the youth branches successfully challenge a trend towards polarization of the political landscape in the country,” said the Head of the OSCE Mission to Skopje, Ambassador Ralf Breth.

Ahead of the campaigns for the presidential and parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for 13 and 27 April, the conference sent a positive message with clear proposals to encourage dialogue between young activists of different political orientations and ethnic backgrounds.

MOST is a non-governmental organization promoting democratic culture and the main domestic organization observing the elections.

17 March 2014
Raising awareness among the youth branches of political parties on the importance of democratic values in an election process was the aim of a conference organized by the OSCE Mission to Skopje and the MOST non-governmental organization on 14 to 16 March 2014...
files/images/hires/c/f/116475.jpg
Young members of several parties engaged in discussion during an OSCE-supported conference, Ohrid, 15 March 2014.
Yes
116439
English
Yes
No
OSCE Mission to Skopje supports launch of NGO network on inter-ethnic relations

An NGO network aiming to enhance inter-communal relations in the municipality of Struga was launched on 14 March 2014, with the support of the OSCE Mission to Skopje.

The launch event, organized by ten regional NGOs with diverse cultural, religious and social backgrounds, brought together more than 40 representatives from civil society, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and local institutions to discuss the development of a public-police partnership in the area.

“The inclusion of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups represented by their own community-based NGOs is a key element in providing equitable access to criminal justice and supporting crime prevention,” said Ismail Fert, Chief of the Police Development Unit at the OSCE Mission to Skopje.

A public pledge to “support the police in providing citizens of all ethnic, religious, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds with safety from any ethnic, cultural and religious exclusion; and to increase awareness of their rights and responsibilities” was signed by representatives of the NGO network and the Ministry.

14 March 2014
An NGO network aiming to enhance inter-communal relations in the municipality of Struga was launched on 14 March 2014, with the support of the OSCE Mission to Skopje...
files/images/hires/9/8/116446.JPG
An NGO representative signing a public pledge on inter-ethnic relations, Struga, 14 March 2014.
Yes
116180
English
116180
Yes
No
Developing situation in Crimea alarming, says OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities

KYIV, 6 March 2014 – OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors is alarmed about the situation in Crimea.

On her return to Kyiv today, she said: “I am alarmed about the risk of violent conflict on the Crimean peninsula and the effects this could have on all communities, particularly the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar groups.”

Thors said the situation remains precarious. “Rash decisions on the future status of Crimea are a major source of tension and expose divisions between the peninsula’s communities that have been left unaddressed for decades. Like the Ukrainian community, Crimean Tatars have taken a different position to the majority population, which increases their vulnerability. Relations between ethnic groups on the peninsula are characterized by a growing climate of fear,” she said.

“I remind the authorities in effective control of the Crimean peninsula that they are obliged to ensure security and respect for human rights, including minority rights, for all those present on the territory, regardless of whether they are of Russian, Ukrainian or Crimean Tatar or other origin.”

“There is a real risk of bloodshed. All decisions on essential issues, such as the status of Crimea, language policy or national minority policy, must be taken in dialogue with all parties and be consistent with international law,” said Thors. During her visit to Kyiv and Crimea, the High Commissioner found no evidence of violations or threats to the rights of Russian speakers.

6 March 2014
KYIV, 6 March 2014 – OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors is alarmed about the situation in Crimea...
files/images/hires/4/c/116009.jpg
Astrid Thors, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, The Hague, 27 August 2013.
Yes
116008
English
Yes
No
OSCE Mission to Skopje calls for applications for grants on promoting inter-ethnic understanding in schools

The OSCE Mission to Skopje is calling on municipalities, students, teachers, parents and schools to apply for grants for organizing activities that bring together students from different communities and different languages of instruction. The deadline for applications are 1 May, and 1 October 2014.

The grants are from the newly-established Building Bridges Fund (BB), a joint effort by the Ministry of Education and Science, the Swiss Embassy and the OSCE Mission to Skopje aimed at increasing interaction, understanding and integration in the school environment for students of different backgrounds.

Terms and conditions, together with application forms in English, Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, Vlach, Romany, Bosnian and Serbian can be downloaded at the website of the Ministry of Education and Science at: www.mon.gov.mk/index.php/novosti/1697-grantovi-za-zaednichki-aktivnosti

The grants are supported by the Swiss OSCE Chairmanship.

4 March 2014
The OSCE Mission to Skopje is calling on municipalities, students, teachers, parents and schools to apply for grants for organizing activities that bring together students from different communities and different languages of instruction. The deadline for applications are 1 May, and 1 October 2014...
files/images/hires/9/7/115996.jpg
Logo of the “Building Bridges Fund”, a fund established as a joint effort by the Ministry of Education and Science, the Swiss Embassy and the OSCE Mission to Skopje.
Yes
115982
English
115982
Yes
No
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities on urgent mission to Ukraine

Astrid Thors, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, arrived in Ukraine on Sunday, 2 March 2014, to assess first-hand the situation on the ground, especially regarding the Crimean peninsula. 

Starting on Tuesday, she will participate in a high-level OSCE delegation, including Ambassador Tim Guldimann, the Special Envoy of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, as part of OSCE efforts to de-escalate the crisis.

Prior to departing, Thors said, "I am deeply concerned about the escalating risk of violent conflict on the Crimean peninsula.  I again urge all actors to exercise restraint in their actions and to use all means available for de-escalation and the peaceful resolution of the present tensions.” 

3 March 2014
Astrid Thors, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, arrived in Ukraine on Sunday, 2 March 2014, to assess first-hand the situation on the ground, especially regarding the Crimean peninsula...
files/images/hires/6/9/109436.jpg
Astrid Thors, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, before delivering a report to the OSCE Permanent Council, Vienna, 12 December 2013.
Yes
115643
English
115643
Yes
No
Restraint, responsibility and dialogue needed in Ukraine, including Crimea, says OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities

THE HAGUE, 24 February 2014 – OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors today expressed her satisfaction that solutions to end the violence and loss of life in Ukraine are emerging. However, she cautioned that the situation remains very fragile. She called on all actors to refrain from taking actions that could lead to increased tensions.

Thors is concerned about the effect the recent events have had on the already precarious situation on the Crimean peninsula. “I urge all sides to act responsibly, to continue respecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and to prevent clashes between different ethnic groups.”

Meanwhile, the decisions taken yesterday by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to cancel the 2012 law on the “Principles of the State Language Policy” could lead to further unrest, especially in a context where language policy is such a divisive issue. The High Commissioner urged the authorities to take measures to ensure that the concerns of all ethnic and linguistic groups are being taken into account. She encouraged the authorities to refrain from taking any hasty actions that could lead to further escalation.

“At this crucial time in its history, Ukraine needs leaders, laws and policies that unite rather than divide. Like my predecessors, I call on the Ukrainian authorities to adopt a balanced and inclusive approach towards language policy. The authorities have to consult widely to ensure that future language legislation accommodates the needs and positions of everyone in Ukrainian society, whether they are speakers of Ukrainian, Russian or other languages,” Thors said. Consultations should also encompass international organizations, including the Council of Europe and the OSCE, to ensure that any new language legislation meets European standards. 

“I am ready to give advice and facilitate discussions on new legislation,” Thors added. “We must avoid the mistakes made last time when unbalanced legislation was adopted without a proper dialogue in the Verkhovna Rada.”

24 February 2014
THE HAGUE, 24 February 2014 – OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors today expressed her satisfaction that solutions to end the violence and loss of life in Ukraine are emerging. However, she cautioned that the situation remains very fragile. She called on all actors to refrain from taking actions that could lead to increased tensions...
No
111300
English
Yes
No
OSCE launches call for nominations: Max van der Stoel Award 2014

THE HAGUE, 14 February 2014 – OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) Astrid Thors today launched a call for nominations for the Max van der Stoel Award.

The 50,000 EUR Award recognizes extraordinary and outstanding achievements in improving the position of national minorities in OSCE participating States.

Although nominations can only be formally submitted by OSCE field operations, institutions, and delegations of OSCE participating States, Thors encouraged other interested people to forward names of individuals, groups or institutions to an OSCE field operation, institution or delegation, which can subsequently choose to nominate such candidates on their behalf.

Nominations must be submitted to the HCNM by 1 April 2014. They can be made to the office of the HCNM, by email to mvds@hcnm.org or through the online nomination form at www.maxvanderstoelaward.com/nominate. Please include the name of the candidate, relevant contact information and the reason for the nomination (100–200 words).

The Award will be presented by Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans in a ceremony in The Hague on 16 October 2014.

Established in 2001 by the Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands, the Max van der Stoel Award honours the prominent Dutch statesman who was the first OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, while also highlighting issues related to national minorities.

14 February 2014
THE HAGUE, 14 February 2014 – OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) Astrid Thors today launched a call for nominations for the Max van der Stoel Award, a 50,000 EUR prize recognizing extraordinary and outstanding achievements in improving the position of national minorities in OSCE participating States…
files/images/hires/f/2/86042.jpg
One of the winners of the Max van der Stoel Award 2011, points to a photograph of the late Max van der Stoel in the Award certificate.
Yes