Hungary will “gladly re-adopt its pro-Ukraine position if Kiev ensures legal guarantees that Ukraine will make substantive changes to its education law and postpone its enactment until 2023,” Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s foreign minister, told reporters on Monday.
Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of his EU counterparts in Brussels, Szijjártó insisted that Ukraine’s geo-political importance “does not lift that country’s obligation to observe international law and protect its ethnic minorities”.
The minister also demanded that
the Ukrainian government should initiate “the necessary talks” with Ukraine Hungarians, and added that “legal guarantees are necessary because (Ukraine’s) verbal pledges so far have invariably turned out differently”.
Hungary and the EU expect Ukraine that it should follow the Venice Commission’s recommendations, negotiate with ethnic minorities, and observe the prohibition of depriving communities of acquired rights, Szijjártó said. Concerning Ukraine’s planned amendment to its language law, under which a national minority could only use its own language officially if their proportion within local society reached 33 percent (up from the current 10 percent), Szijjártó said that the proposal was unacceptable.
At the meeting, Szijjártó raised concern about Ukrainian plans to transfer a battalion of the national army from eastern Ukraine to Berehove (Beregszász), a city close to three NATO countries and with the largest proportion of ethnic Hungarians. He said the Ukrainian defence ministry’s reasoning, suggesting that the military move was necessitated by “threats against Ukraine’s territorial integrity”, was even more “worrying”.
“This means that Kiev considers the ethnic Hungarian community as a threat, which is appalling and which Hungary rejects most firmly,” he said.
Szijjártó noted that Hungary used to support Ukraine’s endeavours to remove the visa requirement for Ukrainian entrants to the EU as well as to reach an association deal with the community. “In terms of Ukraine, Hungary has no other tool than to thwart Kiev’s international endeavours,” Szijjártó said, adding that Hungary has withheld support from holding a meeting of defence ministers of NATO and Ukraine in Kiev in April, as well as from a NATO-Ukraine summit planned for the summer.
“Hungary will only support those goals once Ukraine meets said requirements and observes its international obligations,” Szijjártó said.