Ukraine: “The conflict is a sharp one, but we cannot back down”

If Ukraine adjusts its public education law according to the interests of Transcarpathia’s ethnic Hungarian minority, then Hungary will engage in consultations with its government towards an agreement, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said after meeting the leader of the Cultural Association of Transcarpathian Hungarians (KMKSZ) on Thursday.

It is in the interest of Ukraine’s 150,000 ethnic Hungarians that Hungary maintains a good relationship with their homeland, Szijjarto told a press conference.

Hungary has been the most vocal supporter of Ukraine’s EU accession, he said. But the latest amendments to Ukraine’s public education law severely infringe on the acquired rights of the Hungarian community, Szijjarto said. Hungary will continue to block Ukraine’s EU accession attempts and will thwart efforts to convene a session of the NATO-Ukraine defence ministerial committee, too, unless its government changes its stance, Szijjarto said.

The amendments passed last September restricted public education in minority languages to kindergarten and primary school levels. With these amendments, Ukraine has violated international and European legislation as well as several bilateral agreements, including the Ukrainian-Hungarian basic treaty, Szijjarto said, calling on Ukraine to implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission, which in December urged Ukrainian lawmakers to make changes to the relevant legislation.

The simplest course of action would be to amend the contested provisions of the law, he said. So far, however, the Ukrainian government has not proposed talks with the Hungarian government or the minority representatives, the minister added.
Other draft bills before the Ukrainian parliament are further causes for concern, Szijjarto said.

A law on secondary education is being prepared without consultation with Hungary or Transcarpathian Hungarians, he noted. The law on minorities could curb ethnic minorities’ access to media, while the law on citizenship could be a threat to those with dual citizenship, he said.

KMKSZ leader Laszlo Brenzovics said that good Hungarian-Ukrainian relations and Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration are in Transcarpathian Hungarians’ interests. Minority rights are, however, not up for bargain, he said. “The conflict is a sharp one, but we cannot back down,” he said.

Source and photo: MTI

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