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Hungary To Initiate Review Of EU-Ukraine Association Agreement Over “Anti-Minority” Education Law

By Tamás Székely // 2017.10.10.

Ukraine’s education law violates the association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Monday and added that he would initiate the review of the agreement at next Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó (third from the right) having talks with the political leaders of  Transcarpathia’s ethnic Hungarian community, including László Brenzovics (third from the right) and László Zubánics (second from the right) – photo: MTI

Péter Szijjártó held talks in Ungvár (Uzhhorod, UA) with leaders of ethnic Hungarian organisations and churches about the situation that has developed in connection with the new education law. The new law has created a worse situation for ethnic Hungarians and other minorities than what they experienced in the Soviet Union in terms of education, Szijjarto said after the talks.

Ukraine’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.

It can be clearly stated on the basis of the meeting with ethnic Hungarians leaders in Transcarpathia that the recently introduced law practically makes the operation of Hungarians schools in Ukraine impossible, taking away ethnic Hungarians’ right to study in their mother tongue above the age of 10, Szijjártó said.  As a result, Ukraine is violating its international obligations, which “we must not allow and the Hungarian government will go againts this measure in the most resolute manner”, he added.

Meanwhile, at Hungary’s urging, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is holding an emergency debate on the situation emerging from the change to Ukraine’s education law that restricts teaching in the mother tongue for minorities.

After the first session of a five-day meeting of the Strasbourg body, Zsolt Németh, chairman of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told news agency MTI by phone on Monday that the parliamentary assembly considers it unusual for Ukraine to turn to the Venice Commission for its position on the Ukrainian education law only after the law had been approved by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. He said Ukraine has a vital interest in respecting human rights and the fundamental rights of national minorities for the sake of maintaining internal stability.

According to the latest census, around 150000 ethnic Hungarians live in Transcarpathia, a region which had belonged to Hungary before the First World War, to Czechoslovakia in the interwar period and to the Soviet Union following the Second World War, and which has become part of the independent Ukraine in 1991. In recent years, tens of thousands of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine have been naturalised.

via MTI; featured photo: