Ukraine must fully implement the European Union and the Venice Commission’s recommendations on its education law if it is serious about its Euro-Atlantic aspirations, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on the sidelines of a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels on Monday.
The Venice Commission’s opinion on Ukraine’s education law is “completely clear” and there is only one way to interpret it, Szijjártó told a press conference.
He noted that the commission said that the “proper solution” to the dispute around the law would be amending its controversial Article 7 banning post-primary-level education in minority languages.
Szijjártó repeated that the Hungarian government expects Ukrainian authorities not to take away previously acquired rights from minorities. Further, it expects Ukraine to engage in real and substantive dialogue with national minorities and to fully implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission, he noted.
Hungary cannot support Ukraine’s aspirations on the global stage until there is change on this issue, Szijjártó said.
The Venice Commission published its opinion on Article 7 of the Ukrainian education law on Monday. Though the body acknowledged that Ukraine has a legitimate aim to protect its state language, it said criticisms levelled at the law at home and abroad were justified.
The commission added, at the same time, that the level of protection Article 7 would provide for the linguistic rights of minorities was unclear.
“Article 7 contains important ambiguities and does not appear to provide the guidance needed from a framework law in the application of the country’s international and constitutional obligations,” the opinion adds.
The commission also said that the provision that allows for certain subjects to be taught in English or another official language of the European Union — such as Hungarian, Romanian, Polish or Bulgarian — was discriminatory against the country’s Russian-speaking minority. The opinion noted that the Russian language is the most widely used of all of Ukraine’s regional or minority languages.
On another subject, Szijjártó said security in the Middle East and Africa was closely linked to Europe’s security. Those regions are still highly unstable and this could trigger another migration wave towards Europe in the future, he said.
The fight against the Islamic State militant group “is going well”, but terrorism will take on different forms and try to conquer other regions, he said.
The situation in the Middle East vindicates the Hungarian government’s policy, Szijjártó said.
Europe must avoid encouraging migration in any way, as it poses a risk to the continent as well as migrants’ countries of origin and transit countries, the minister added.
He said help should be provided where it is needed, adding that Hungary will back any measure aimed at launching economic development programmes in the region.
Further, the EU should help member states with their border protection efforts, support Christian communities in the Middle East and Africa and strengthen peacekeeping operations there, Szijjártó added.
Hungary contributes significant efforts to peacekeeping missions relative to its size and the government is looking at ways to expand its role in the UN mission in Mali next year, he said.
As regards Monday’s talks between EU foreign ministers and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Szijjártó said that although “there were some tough questions asked”, the overall atmosphere of the meeting was positive.
Hungary believes the EU and Israel should soon convene another meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council,
Szijjártó said, arguing that economic cooperation must not be allowed to fall prey to political differences.