EducationForeign Affairs

Hungarian and Romanian Governments ‘United’ Against Controversial Ukrainian Education Law

Speaking to Hungarian wire service MTI, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said that it is “natural and normal” that Hungary and Romania are speaking out together against Ukraine’s new education law, despite past disputes between the two countries. 

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó (left) meeting with his Romanian counterpart Teodor Melescanu on October 2nd in the Transylvanian city of Cluj Napoca (Kolozsvár) (Photo: Hungarian Foreign Ministry/ Árpád Szabó)

Ukraine’s new rules on education banning post-primary-level education in minority languages were signed into law by President Petro Poroshenko last week. After its passage, Szijjártó quickly called for the repeal of this legislation, which the Hungarian government views as ‘anti-minority.’

The country’s controversial education law, passed by its parliament on September 5th, states that its aim is to “modernize education”, through reforms to be introduced from September 2018. Concerning the language of education, the 7th paragraph of the law states that Ukraine’s official language in education is Ukrainian and the use of minority languages is allowed only in the first four grades of primary education.

This law has stirred up immense controversy and anger internationally, as Russia, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Greece, and Moldova all reacted quite harshly to what has been perceived by many commentators as an attack on minority rights in Ukraine.

According to Szijjártó, the new education law infringes upon the cooperation agreement between the EU and Ukraine, which Hungary and Romania supported. He added that the two countries now

feel they have been stabbed in the back.

In addition, the Hungarian Foreign Minister described two bills currently before the Ukrainian parliament, one which amends the country’s citizenship law, and the other of which deals with the use of minority languages, as being “serious dangers” to minority rights in Ukraine.

Szijjártó said that strategic relations with Romania are in Hungary’s interest. “It is much better to build a common success story than to manage conflicts,” he said.

The Hungarian politician’s comments come in the wake of Hungary’s diplomatic conflict with Romania over the Romanian government’s plans to shut down an ethnic Hungarian Roman Catholic school in the Transylvanian city of Targu Mures (Marosvásárhely). This event triggered large protests in Targu Mures, as well as a stern diplomatic response from Hungary, which threatened to suspend its support for Romania’s aspirations to join various international organizations such as the OECD.

Since then, however, the two sides have seemingly come to terms, as Romanian leaders promised to “resolve the situation” surrounding the school, and Hungarian politicians vowed to once again support Romania’s accession to the OECD.

Via MTI and carnegieeurope.eu

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