Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó has accused the European Union of putting the rights of migrants ahead of those of the Hungarian minority living in western Ukraine.
“We are forced to engage in a constant debate with Brussels over which human rights of migrants should be respected, while here in Transcarpathia there are 150,000 Hungarians whose fundamental right is to live in their own home in safety and use their own language,” he told a press conference after meeting the head of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Cultural Association (KMKSZ), László Brenzovics, on Wednesday.
The minister said it appeared that migrants were more important to Brussels than Hungarians in Ukraine.
He said the situation regarding laws violating the rights of Ukraine’s Hungarian minority had worsened in recent days. Rather than comply with the decisions of the various international forums, the Ukrainian government has introduced initiatives that have made the situation worse, Szijjártó said.
The minister noted that in spite of the Venice Commission’s decision issued last year that Ukraine should consult its national minorities on its new education law banning post-primary-level education in minority languages, the government had not held a single consultation with KMKSZ.
Szijjártó said that though Ukraine now wants to postpone the law’s enactment until 2023, this was not enough for Hungary. “We expect Ukraine not to introduce the law until 2023 and in the meantime to reach an agreement with minorities,” he said, adding that Hungary also wants private schools to be excluded from the law’s jurisdiction.
Szijjártó said Ukraine could easily meet these expectations, and if it did, Hungary would lift its veto of the country’s NATO accession.
The minister said Hungary was also concerned about a Ukrainian bill that would strip dual citizens of their Ukrainian citizenship. He said this bill was also worrying from a NATO standpoint, noting that if enacted, the law would be stripping citizens of NATO member states of their Ukrainian citizenship.
Hungary is constantly seeking dialogue with Ukraine, Szijjártó said, pointing out that next week he will meet with his Ukrainian counterpart on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers. On May 23, US Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell will visit Budapest, he said.
Brenzovics said Ukraine was planning further measures that would curb the rights of Transcarpathia Hungarians and would be in breach of the Ukraine’s own constitution and its international commitments. And if a country strives to join both the European Union and NATO, it cannot impose measures that go against European norms, he added.
Meanwhile, asked about ongoing debates in the EU, Szijjártó said that until next year’s European parliamentary elections, “there will be plenty of political and legal battles.”
“In the meantime there will also be the debate on the next EU budget in connection with which certain people want to create subjective standards regarding the funds to be distributed based on the EU treaties,” he added.
Szijjártó said that the European Commission would try to wrap up the debate on migration by the summer. He added, however, that since migration was the biggest challenge facing the bloc, it would be better if the decision on the direction the EU should take in the matter were left up to voters in next year’s elections.
Szijjártó said the so-called Sargentini report, which he called a “collection of certified lies”, was “also on the table” and also addressed issues that have already been settled.
Featured image: MTI