Hungary will continue to block NATO-Ukraine Council meetings until minority rights are restored in Ukraine, Péter Szijjártó, the foreign minister, told lawmakers on Tuesday.
In a speech in parliament, Szijjártó said Hungary’s stance had been portrayed on the global stage as a Russia-friendly policy. This, he said, was “absurd”.
Szijjártó said that from afar it was perhaps understandable that the lives of 150,000 ethnic Hungarians were less important than geopolitical considerations.
“But for us, this community is more important than any geopolitical matter,” he said.
The minister noted that on March 26, his Ukrainian counterpart, who has been asked by his president to work towards restoring bilateral relations, will visit Budapest.
“We’re ready and we’ll also make sensible suggestions,” he added.
He said that in terms of Hungary’s bilateral ties with neighboring countries, its relations with Ukraine were the most challenging. Whereas Hungary supports Ukraine on matters of territorial integrity and sovereignty, it must keep in mind the many violations in legislation of Hungarian national minority rights.
The violations not only concern the Hungarian community’s rights but minority rights more broadly, he added.
The aims of ensuring that every Ukrainian citizen speaks the state language properly while national minorities are able to speak in their mother tongue should not be mutually exclusive, Szijjártó said.
In Ukraine, Hungarian students study Ukrainian seven hours a week, and whereas this may be sufficient to learn the language, it falls short when it comes to speaking.
The solution would be to improve the standard of Ukrainian language teaching, and Hungary is prepared help finance such an endeavour, he added.
Hungary has presented Ukraine with a proposal with a broad range of measures such as a 50 million euro tied aid loan for developing infrastructure in the western part of the country, building new border crossings, improving motorway links and boosting farming cooperation, Szijjártó noted.