It is “natural and normal” that Hungary and Romania are speaking out together against Ukraine’s new education law, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told MTI on Monday.
Ukraine’s new rules on education banning post-primary-level education in minority languages were signed into law by the president last week.
The law infringes on the association agreement reached between the EU and Ukraine, which Hungary and Romania had supported, Szijjártó told MTI by phone in Cluj (Kolozsvar) during an official visit. The two countries now “feel they have been stabbed in the back”, he added.
It poses a “serious danger” that bills to amend the citizenship law and the language law are currently before the Ukrainian parliament, he said.
He said that ignoring repeated calls by both Hungary and Romania, Ukraine had enacted the new education law which seriously violates the rights of minorities.
There are more than half a million Hungarians and Romanians living in Ukraine, Szijjártó noted, adding that this explains why Hungary and Romania are acting together on the matter.
The new education law contrenes Ukraine’s constitution in granting more rights to certain minorities than to others, Szijjártó said. As regards the amendment to the language law, Szijjártó said that if adopted by Ukraine’s parliament, the right of the Hungarian and Romanian minorities to use their mother tongue would be substantially restricted.
“This is why it is important that the two countries are now acting together on the matter,” Szijjártó said, adding that “this could send a clear a message to the Ukrainian parliament that passing further amendments would further curb the rights of the country’s minorities”.
In connection with his visit, Szijjártó said he had meet his Romanian counterpart Teodor Melescanu for bilateral talks for the third time in the past two and a half months, which he said was “normal” between two sides representing two neighbouring countries linked by their minorities and as two important economic partners.
He said they agreed at their meeting that national minorities were considered an asset in bilateral relations.
Szijjártó said strategic relations with Romania were in Hungary’s interest.
“It is much better to build a common success story than to manage conflicts,” he added.
In terms of cooperation in energy security matters, Szijjártó welcomed as “good news” Romania’s decision to allow substantial natural gas deliveries to Hungary in 2019 thanks to an agreement between the countries’ respective operators. By 2022, a total of 4.4 billion cubic metres of gas is expected to be shipped between the two countries, he said.
Speaking about infrastructure projects, Szijjártó said plans were to have two motorways linking the two countries by 2020.
As we wrote, Hungarian lawmakers on 19 September unanimously passed a five-party decree condemning “the unlawful Ukrainian education law” and urging measures to be taken against it.