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Hungarian and Ukrainian Foreign Ministers Meet, Discuss “Completely Different” Positions Regarding Controversial Education Law

By Robert Velkey // 2017.10.13.

Hungary and Ukraine have “completely different” positions concerning Ukraine’s recently passed education law, which would deprive older students from ethnic minorities of education in their mother tongue, the Hungarian foreign minister said on Thursday after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart in Budapest.

Péter Szijjártó said Ukraine’s Hungarian community did not support the contested legislation. “Hungary does not want a fight but an agreement,” he said. Hungarians in Transcarpathia, in western Ukraine, should be handed back their rights, he added. “As long as the local Hungarian community is unhappy with the situation” Hungary will insist on its decision not to support Ukraine in international organisations, Szijjártó said. In addition, the Foreign Minister argued that provisions which affect the Hungarian minority should be dropped.

Szijjártó said that the new law, under which the language of tuition in secondary schools and higher education would be exclusively Ukrainian, was like “a stab in the back” for Hungary, which had “taken a number of risky decisions” to help Ukraine. For example, he mentioned Hungarian gas supplies to Ukraine, treating injured Ukrainian soldiers in Hungary, various aid programmes, and Hungary’s encouraging the EU to grant a visa-free status to entrants from Ukraine. The minister said that further draft amendments affecting minorities, submitted to the Ukrainian parliament on Monday, would jeopardise the existence of 71 schools for the Hungarian minority. He added that the package was in conflict with the EU-Ukraine association agreement, and said that Hungary would request a review of the agreement next Monday.

Pavlo Klimkin, the Ukrainian minister, said at the press conference that the draft was “not aimed at people”. Rather, he claimed that it was designed to help all Ukrainian citizens to succeed, arguing that “if a Ukrainian national cannot speak Ukrainian well, they will miss out on a lot of opportunities.” He also insisted that no schools would be closed and “not a single teacher will be dismissed” because of the new law.


photos:; kárpá