“Hungary has provided much concrete assistance to Ukraine, and in exchange it expects that the rights of the Hungarian community living there are not impaired”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó stressed after he and his Slovakian and Czech counterparts Mirolsav Lajcák and Lubomir Zaorálek held joint talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin.
At their joint press conference, Mr. Szijjártó said in reply to a question from Hungarian news agency MTI that Hungary has spent many billions of forints on helping the economic development of Ukraine, and within it Subcarpathia. “However, it is also our firm expectation with regard to Ukraine that it stops harassing Hungarian institutions (in Subcarpathia), as well as all initiatives that curtail the rights of the Hungarian minority”, de declared.
The Hungarian Foreign Minister pointed out that several Central European countries had been criticised for not cooperating sufficiently with Ukraine. “In contrast, the facts indicate that it is precisely the countries of Central Europe that are not only supporting Ukraine with loud words, but also with real acts”, he said, explaining that the free trade agreement between the European Union and Ukraine had still not come into effect because of Holland, and not because of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and that it was also not the countries of Central and Eastern Europe who were responsible for the fact that it took over a year before visa-free travel was afforded to Ukrainian citizens.
Among the Hungarian support provided recently, Mr Szijjártó highlighted the fact that Hungary was one of the first to begin transporting natural gas to Ukraine, had offered up a 50 million dollar aid credit package for infrastructure developments in Subcarpathia, and had opened a seven billion forint (EUR 22.5M) tender budget to support investments in Ukraine by small and medium-sized enterprises, in addition to which it also has one of the largest contingents within the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.
“It is, however, our firm expectation that Ukraine’s Parliament does not adopt the planned Act on Education, which would curtail the rights of the Hungarian minority to receive education in their native language. We expect that no Ukrainian body should adopt any language legislation that restricts the use of the Hungarian language and that minority Hungarians should not be put in a difficult situation by any new laws on dual nationality”, he stressed. “Hungary expects the two countries to agree on the latter issue within at least the framework of a bilateral treaty”, he added.
Mr. Szijjártó declared that dual nationality was an absolutely normal phenomenon in Europe, and accordingly it was unacceptable for Ukraine to punish Hungarians in Subcarpathia because of this.
The Hungarian Foreign Minister warned that if bilateral negotiations on the issue did not result in a successful agreement within the field of minority rights, then Budapest would put the case before the European Commission and the European Court of Human Rights, but expressed his hope that this can be avoided.
In his response, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin stressed that the planned measures are not aimed at the Hungarian minority in Ukraine. He noted, however, that dual nationality is an extremely sensitive issue for Kiev in view of the Russian aggression affecting Ukraine. “We don’t want to open Pandora’s Box, but are not seeking to punish anyone”, he said. Mr. Klimkin called for the European Union to do more to stop Russian propaganda discrediting Ukraine.
At the press conference, it was stated that the three V4 countries will continue to support Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial continuity, as well as the implementation of and compliance with the Minsk Protocol by every party involved in the interests of resolving the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic will continue to provide assistance in future towards political and economic reforms in Ukraine.
During the course of the day, the three V4 foreign ministers will be holding talks with legislators in Kiev’s Parliament Building, in addition to also meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Grojsman and President Petro Poroshenko.