During talks with László Brenzovics, the head of the Hungarian Cultural Federation in Transcarpathia (KMKSZ), Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó called on Ukrainian authorities to guarantee the safety of ethnic Hungarians living in the country.
Szijjártó has reviewed the security situation in Transcarpathia, the ministry said in a statement. The talks followed an arson attack on KMKSZ’s headquarters in Uzhhorod, in western Ukraine, in February. “The series of attacks on the Hungarian minority is a cause for concern,” Szijjártó said. “We expect the Ukrainian authorities to guarantee the safety of Transcarpathian Hungarians and welcome the increased presence of OSCE observers in the region,” the statement said, adding that
Hungary is willing to support Ukraine’s attempts to join NATO and the EU only if that country refrains from enacting laws that curb the rights of the Hungarian minority,
Relations between the two countries have become notably more tense since last September, when the Ukrainian parliament amended the so-called public education law, which purportedly aims to “modernize education”; however, its 7th paragraph states that the only official language in education is Ukrainian, and minority languages such as Hungarian are only allowed in the first four grades. As a response, shortly after its passage, the Orbán government declared that all diplomatic means would be used to make Ukraine withdraw the legislation. Since then, Hungary has vetoed a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission on Ukraine’s integration. In addition, in January a trilateral meeting was held in Paris between FM Péter Szijjártó, Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin and US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell; however no promise or agreement was reached.
Two arson attacks on the headquarters of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Cultural Association (KMKSZ) over the course of February stirred tensions further in an already tense milieu. Szijjártó went on to urge OSCE’s special monitoring mission to establish a presence in Transcarpathia. Ukrainian authorities, however, have charged three Polish citizens in connection with the first attack. Those Polish citizens reportedly belong to a pro-Russian organization whose members fought in Donbass on the side of the Russian separatists and against the Ukrainian forces. In addition, Ukrainian FM Pavlo Klimkin insists that the second attack was also incited by the Kremlin, even though those arrested are Ukrainian nationals.
image via Bruzák Noémi/ MTI