“Hungary and Ukraine have a completely different assessment of the Ukrainian Education Act”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said in Budapest on Thursday following talks with his Ukrainian counterpart.

At the press conference following the meeting, Mr. Szijjártó highlighted: “Hungary and Ukraine view the issue of the Ukrainian Education Act totally differently, but the greater problem is that cross-border Hungarians living in Transcarpathia also view the situation totally differently than the Ukrainian Government”.

DownloadPhoto: Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI

“Hungary’s goal isn’t conflict, but an agreement that ensures that Transcarpathian Hungarians can continue to enjoy the same rights they had before the new legislation was introduced”, he declared. “Until the local Hungarian community states that it is satisfied with the situation, however, Hungary is unable to retract its decision not to support Ukrainian proposals and issues that are important to Ukraine on international forums”, he added.

Mr. Szijjártó stressed that talks can only be successful if the implementation of the relative sections of the new legislation are suspended.

Hungary felt the new Act was a “stab in the back” in view of the fact that it had supported Ukraine on several issues and often made risky decisions in the interests of helping the neighbouring state, citing as examples the transporting of natural gas to Ukraine, the medical treatment of dozens of wounded Ukrainian soldiers in Hungary, free holidays for Ukrainian children, the tied aid programme and funding for institutions, in addition to which he also mentioned that Hungary had been one of the “loudest proponents” calling on the EU to stop keeping Ukraine waiting and afford Ukrainian citizens visa-free travel.

DownloadPhoto: Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI

“Hungary’s cross-border policy is determined by the standpoint of the cross-border Hungarian community, and if they ask us ‘not to back down’, then Hungary will not do so”, the Foreign Minister said, adding that on Monday he had asked for the opinion of Transcarpathian Hungarians, and in their view the new legislation reduces their previously wide-ranging right to native language education.

“The functioning of 71 schools in Transcarpathia has been endangered”, Mr. Szijjártó said. “Ukraine’s new Education Act also goes against its association agreement with the EU, although the Ukrainian Government does not believe so”, he said, adding that on Monday Hungary will be initiating a review of the association agreement between the European Union and Ukraine.

“The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the most important current issues between the two countries as informally as possible, and we conducted an open and honest dialogue on the issue”, he said, adding that he was extremely appreciative of the fact that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin had travelled to Budapest and “chosen the path of dialogue in this extremely difficult period”.

In reply to a question, the Minister told the press that the standpoint of the Hungarian Government on the proposed new Hungarian Language Act and Nationality Act will also correspond to the standpoint of Transcarpathia Hungarians, and on Monday they had spoken about the two bills “in quite low spirits”. “We very much hope that the new pieces of legislation will not be adopted in the same form as they have been put forward”, Mr. Szijjártó said.