Following a joint Hungarian-Romanian initiative, the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) unanimously decided to ask the Venice Commission, the constitutional advisory body of PACE, to examine whether the new Ukrainian law on the protection of minorities is in line with international standards, Zsolt Németh, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, told MTI.
Zsolt Németh pointed out that Ukraine, despite its obligation, has not held consultations with the Venice Commission and representatives of national minorities, who have since voiced their dissatisfaction with the new law. According to him, the Venice Commission will treat this matter as a priority and could give an assessment of the law in a few months.
He also stressed that it was in Ukraine’s vital interest to bring the protection of minorities into line with international standards.
Compliance with international minority protection legislation is an essential condition for Ukraine’s integration into the EU, as required by the Copenhagen criteria for accession,”
he underscored. Németh also reported that the Hungarian delegation had achieved many results at the Parliamentary Assembly. As an example, he mentioned that the Assembly had adopted the report on the fourth Council of Europe summit, containing a recommendation which places great emphasis on respect for minority rights.
The Ukrainian parliament adopted a new law on national minorities in December, repealing the previous one. The adoption of the law is one of the conditions for Ukraine to start negotiations on its accession to the European Union. The Cultural Alliance of Hungarians in Sub-Carpathia and the Hungarian Democratic Union of Ukraine both criticized the law, saying that the lawmakers completely ignored constructive proposals previously made by Hungarian and other minority organizations.
The law not only reinforces the restrictions on rights previously codified in the Education and Language Law that was hurtful to Hungarian communities, but also introduces new ones, and it “does not guarantee the preservation of compact nationality settlement areas, nor the use of nationality symbols,” according to their earlier statement.
Meanwhile, anti-Hungarian measures are common in Ukraine, especially in the Municipality of Mukachevo (Munkács, Transcarpathia), where the mayor of Mukachevo, Andriy Baloha, and his influential father, MP Viktor Baloha, arranged for the removal of the Munkács Turul statue earlier. In their latest action, with the help of police, they had flags removed from Hungarian establishments in the settlements of Fornos and Dercen, two Hungarian-majority localities in the Mukachevo region.
Tamás Menczer, Secretary of State for Bilateral Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has called on national leaders and the local leaders of the Municipality of Mukachevo to immediately stop the offenses against Hungarians. The Secretary of State also said it was important that “the unacceptable events” had so far taken place in the Mukachevo sub-region, not in the whole of Transcarpathia. He also expressed the hope that “we will not have to face such anti-Hungarian actions elsewhere.”
Featured photo via Facebook/Árpád János Potápi