Decisions by Ukraine infringing on the rights of its Hungarian national minority will make it more difficult for Hungary to make the sacrifices necessary to support the country in the coming period, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in Brussels on Monday.
“It seems that despite the start of a new year, the warlike attitude isn’t changing and the same warlike atmosphere persists,” Szijjártó told a press conference during a break in a meeting with his European Union counterparts.
He cited, as an example, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s proposal for the bloc to provide another 500 million euros to finance the delivery of military equipment to Ukraine and contribute 45 million euros to a training mission for Ukrainian troops.
“Our position is obvious: there must be peace as soon as possible,” Szijjártó said. The farther away a country is located geographically from Ukraine, the less direct an effect the war will have on it, and it will have less of a commitment to achieving peace as soon as possible, the minister said.
Every decision that may lead to prolonging or escalating the war is against Hungary’s interests, Szijjártó said. “That’s why we do not consider it a good idea to step up weapons deliveries while at the same time we’re not blocking the European Union from carrying out such decisions,” he added.
The minister also touched on the issue of “concentrated and severe attacks” against the ethnic Hungarian community in Ukraine.
Szijjártó condemned the firing of ethnic Hungarian school headmasters and teachers without justification and the requirement set for institutions to take down Hungarian national symbols. “All of these are signs of a severe and concentrated anti-Hungarian attack,” he said.
“All of this is unacceptable and not only we Hungarians but the European Union should also act against it. It is unacceptable for anyone to interpret this as a bilateral issue,” he said.
Szijjártó said that Ukraine as an EU member candidate must respect the rules of the community, and guaranteeing the rights of national minorities is a common value and obligation.
Hungary had expected that during the EU candidacy talks the situation of national minorities would improve in Ukraine.
“It would be logical, correct and normal but it’s not happening,” he said. The regulations approved in December have created an even worse situation than what had been before, and this, coupled with the serious legal attacks, give reason for serious concern, he added.
He called for a return to the laws in force in 2015 and added that it was unacceptable that Ukraine made the operation of Hungarian-language schools impossible.
“The concentrated attacks against Hungarians and anti-Hungarian measures make our decisions for the upcoming period very difficult because they involve sacrifices expected from Hungary in the interest of Ukraine’s support,” he said.
“Therefore we expect from Ukraine to respect the rights of the Hungarian ethnic community … and we expect from the European Union to take action in this matter,” he added.
In response to a question, Szijjártó said that for the time being, Ukrainians seem to disregard all warnings by European states.
“Ukraine will need certain European political decisions that cannot be made without our participation and the more rights they withdraw from the ethnic Hungarian community and the more they drag the time to restore the national community rights that existed previously, it will be the more difficult for us at home in Hungary to make decisions that require making sacrifices on our part,” he said.