Home | Media | News | The text of the briefing held by the President of the Constitutional Court, Domnica Manole, on 21 January 2021 (the status of the languages spoken on the territory of the Republic of Moldova)
The text of the briefing held by the President of the Constitutional Court, Domnica Manole, on 21 January 2021 (the status of the languages spoken on the territory of the Republic of Moldova)
Dear representatives of the media,
Today, the Constitutional Court reviewed the Law on the usage of languages spoken on the territory of the Republic of Moldova. The application was lodged with the Court by several MPs of the Republic of Moldova.
It should be mentioned that, in the Republic of Moldova, the content of such a Law was and still is a complex and sensitive issue, which has been periodically transformed into a political topic.
However, the Court does not get involved in any political-electoral debate. One of its main functions, established in Article 134 of the Constitution, is to guarantee the Constitution’s supremacy. For this reason, I would like to emphasize that any judgement of the Constitutional Court must be analyzed in light of its reasoning, without hatred, bias or prejudice.
As you all know, on 16 December 2020, the Parliament adopted the Law on the usage of languages spoken on the territory of the Republic of Moldova.
In reviewing this Law, the Court primarily referred to Article 13 of the Constitution. According to this Article, in the interpretation of the Decision of the Constitutional Court no. 36 from 5 December 2013, the State language of the Republic of Moldova is Romanian. Its second paragraph stipulates that the State recognizes and protects the right to the preservation, development and usage of Russian and other spoken languages on the country. The mention of Russian in this constitutional text, is merely an example and does not grant this language a more special status than that of other minority languages spoken on the territory of the State (Ukrainian, Gagauz, Bulgarian, Romani, etc.).
Therefore, it can be inferred from Article 13 of the Constitution that it recognizes and protects two values: (i) the official nature of Romanian as a State language and (ii) the right to the preservation, development and usage of other languages spoken in the country.
The statistical data used by the Court to adjudicate the case before it were those relating to the structure of the population by mother tongue and those on the structure of the population by mother tongue in the territorial profile, collected in the 2014 Population and Housing Census, which is the latest available statistical data. These are the statistics the Court used, not the statistics on the language usually spoken, because it related its analysis to the rights of persons belonging to ethnic minorities. The Court noted that the obligation imposed to the State by Article 13 para. (2) of the Constitution to acknowledge and protect the right to the preservation, development and usage of other languages spoken on the territory of the State takes into account the mother tongues of its citizens, not the languages usually spoken by citizens.
Based on the premise that the glossonym "Romanian" includes the term "Moldovan", in the Republic of Moldova, Romanian is the mother tongue of at least 77.86% of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova. Russian is the mother tongue of at least 9.39% of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, Gagauz is the mother tongue of at least 4.08% of the citizens, Ukrainian is the mother tongue of at least 3.82% of the citizens, and Bulgarian is the mother tongue of at least 1.48% of the citizens.
The Court also noted that the weight of Ukrainian in territorial profile is greater than the weight of Russian in nine districts. Apart from these districts, the difference between the weight of Russian and Ukrainian languages is not more than 2% in 15 of the 32 districts.
Based on Article 13 of the Constitution, the Court verified: (a) whether there is a balance between Romanian, the State language of the Republic of Moldova, and Russian, the language of an ethnic minority; and (b) the legal position of other ethnic minorities languages in the Republic of Moldova, taking into account the constitutional guarantees.
The pursued aim of Articles 10 and 13 regulated in the Constitution is explained by the need to guarantee the identity and unity of the people of the Republic of Moldova. The State language is considered, in this sense, as having a constitutional value as a symbol of the people’s unity, being an integral part of the constitutional identity of the Republic of Moldova.
The protection and establishment of a State language aims at responding to the identity need of the majority of State citizens and aims at establishing a language that ensures communication between different parts of the population in all areas of life and throughout the State’s territory. The possibility for citizens to use the official language throughout the country may also seek to prevent them from being discriminated in exercising their rights in regions where persons belonging to ethnic minorities hold a majority position. The protection and promotion of the official State language aims at achieving social cohesion and the integration of ethnic minorities and helps to avoid situations where persons belonging to ethnic minorities are limited to specific geographical areas where their language is spoken, which may prevent them from moving or settling anywhere on the territory of their State, in order to seek professional or personal development.
At the same time, the Court noted that neither the State language, nor the languages of minorities should be prejudiced by negligent language policies. The Court noted that the balance between the interests of protecting Romanian as a State language and protecting the ethnic minorities languages is not ensured by the provisions of the impugned Law.
Thus, Article 2 of the Law gives the Russian language a privileged status in relation to other ethnic minorities languages in the Republic of Moldova, a status that does not derive from the Constitution. As the Court noted from the collected data in the context of the 2014 Census, there are districts where Ukrainian, for example, carries more weight than Russian. From the same data, it can be noticed that in some districts Russian has a small weight, less than 3%. However, being elevated to the level of language of interethnic communication, Russian, the language of an ethnic minority, acquires along with Romanian a quasi-official status.
In formal terms, some Articles of the impugned Law emphasize the dominant role of the Russian language throughout the territory of the Republic of Moldova in relation to the languages of other ethnic minorities, without distinguishing between districts where its weight is unsubstantial and districts where its weight is significant, in order to establish such strict legal obligations.
The Court noted that Article 13 of the Constitution recognizes only one State language and does not contain the phrase "language of interethnic communication". The constitutional status of the State language implies the use of the State language to be the language of communication between all the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, regardless of their ethnic origin. In this sense, Article 10 para. (1) of the Constitution provides that the State’s foundation is the unity of the people of the Republic of Moldova, which is the common and indivisible motherland of all its citizens. Despite this fact, the impugned Law grants Russian a similar status to Romanian. This status is observed from Article 2 para. (2) of the Law, which mentions that Russian is the language of interethnic communication on the territory of the Republic of Moldova, used at the same level as the State language.
Therefore, the preferential treatment of Russian in comparison to other ethnic minorities languages, by placing it at the level of the State language, is contrary to Article 13 of the Constitution. This treatment does not comply with the principles enunciated by the Preamble of the Constitution and renders the prescription of Article 10 para. (2) of the Constitution to be devoid of substance in respect to other ethnic minorities who speak another language than Russian.
The Court noted that in order to ensure the application of the provisions of the impugned Law, the State authorities had to allocate additional financial means, which, at the date of the adoption of the Law, have not been estimated for the translation of the official documents of State and public administration bodies, for the translation of the public institutions names, for the preparation of the name inscriptions on the public authorities plates, for the translation of the name of the products, of the instructions, as well as any other visual information on the products manufactured in the Republic of Moldova, for the training of officials in learning Russian, for the employment and remuneration of translators etc.
In accordance with the provisions of Article 131 paras. (4) and (6) of the Constitution, any legislative proposal which entails the increase of the budget expenditures may be adopted only following an approval by the Government and no budget expenditure may be approved without prior specification of the funding source.
Because the Government's advisory opinion is missing, the Court found the violation of Articles 6 and 131 of the Constitution.
Consequently, the Court declared the Law on the usage of languages spoken on the territory of the Republic of Moldova unconstitutional.
Thank you for your attention.