Hungary has an interest in having good relations with Ukraine, but will do everything to prevent the curbing of the rights of Transcarpathia (Kárpátalja) Hungarians, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told a press conference on Friday after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, in Nizhne Solotvino (Alsószlatina) in southwest Ukraine.
At the talks which Hungarian Human Resources Minister Mikls Kásler and Ukrainian Education Minister Liliya Hrynevych also attended, the parties discussed the Ukrainian education law, which Hungary says harms the rights of the Hungarian minorities in the country.
The law, which was approved last September, restricted public education in minority languages to kindergarten and primary school levels.
Szijjártó said that bilateral relations, which were previously “mostly about infrastructure investments and opening new border crossings”, were “hijacked” by the education law. “This is not right, most of our countries’ interests are the same,” Szijjártó said.
Hungary does not want to challenge Ukrainian methods to optimise the teaching of the country’s official Ukrainian language, Szijjártó said. “All we ask is that this should not be done to the detriment of minority language education,” he said.
Hungary welcomes Ukraine’s decision to adopt the Venice Commission’s opinion of the law.
The Council of Europe’s advisory body issued its opinion on the Ukrainian education law at the end of 2017.
Based on that opinion, Szijjártó said that the Ukrainian parliament “will hopefully, finally” prolong the law’s transition period, and exempt private schools from the scope of the legislation.
Szijjártó welcomed the Ukrainian education minister’s pledge to consult Hungarian minorities on parts of the legislation package in July.
The Hungarian government will stay in contact with the Transcarpathian Hungarian Cultural Association (KMKSZ) on all issues concerning Hungarians in Ukraine‘s Transcarpathia region, he said.
Klimkin called the meeting “dynamic and constructive”. “Our interest is that the members of the Hungarian community, who are also Ukrainian citizens, preserve their national identities … but we also want to make it worthwhile for them to learn Ukrainian well enough so that no one feels disadvantaged,” Klimkin said.
Hrynevych said that the education ministry’s aim was to ensure good quality knowledge for all children, regardless of their ethnic background. “It is important that the children keep their ethnic identities but also that they speak the official language fluently,” she said. Currently, teaching methods, curriculums, text books and teachers are missing in Hungarian schools to guarantee this, she said, adding that the ministry is already working on solutions.