“Hungary will not give up its current policy with regard to the Ukrainian Education Act without legal guarantees”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said at a press conference in Budapest on Monday.

“If Hungary were to let go of its opportunity to veto in international organisations then it would be giving up the only instrument with which it can protect Transcarpathian Hungarians and force Ukraine to correspond to international regulations”, the Minister highlighted.

“NATO planned to hold a meeting of NATO-Ukraine defence ministers on 14-15 February, which Hungary has vetoed, and accordingly the Alliance’s Secretary General has informed member states that the session of the meeting will not be held”, Mr. Szijjártó told the press.

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“Although they tried to put pressure on Hungary to not exercise its right to veto, the country withstood these efforts, because it is the duty of Hungarian foreign policy to protect Hungarians, no matter where they live”, the Foreign Minister explained.

“Everything is related to everything in international politics, and for this reason Hungary did not accept the argument that a minority issue should not be linked to a right to veto within an international organisation”, he continued.

According to Mr. Szijjártó, this is not a bilateral issue in view of the fact that Ukraine has also gone against its international commitments and is contravening laws and fundamental international rights.

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“Every country that works in close cooperation with NATO undertakes and implements an annual programme, and within that agreement Ukraine undertook to respect the rights of minorities. If Ukraine is serious about forging closer links to NATO and the European Union, then it must fulfil their expectations”, he pointed out.

Hungary isn’t the one who needs to change the situation, because “we didn’t bring it into existence”, it can only be changed by the party that is responsible for it having come about, namely Ukraine, Mr. Szijjártó stressed.

“For Hungary to lift its veto Ukraine must, in accordance with the expectations of the Venice Commission and the European Union, refrain from beginning the implementation of the Act until it has come to an agreement on every detail of the legislation with national minorities, including the Hungarian minority”, he said.

“If the Ukrainian Government issues a decree according to which it will suspend the implementation of the Act until those consultations are over, that will be a good basis for negotiations with relation to finding a reassuring solution to the situation”, he added.

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According to the Hungarian Foreign Minister, there is also “communications warfare” going on, because they are attempting to publish false news in the press stating that an agreement has been reached and everything is in order. “But this is not the case, and the fact that Ukraine is prepared to extend the schedule of the implementation of the Act is worth nothing, because then the exact same Ukrainian Education Act will eventually come into effect”, he said.

He also spoke about the fact that the implementation of the Act is indicated by the fact that world literature will have to be taught in Ukrainian from September, in addition to which a memo has been sent to schools to assess how well teachers speak Ukrainian.

“Hungary’s interest is in finding a solution. The consultations between Transcarpathian Hungarians and the Ukrainian Government may finally begin on Wednesday, and Hungary will be providing all possible assistance to Transcarpathian Hungarians”, he said.

(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade/MTI)