Hungary will suggest to the new Ukrainian leadership that relations between the two countries should be restored to their former state before the Hungarian national community in Transcarpathia was deprived of its acquired rights, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó told the Hungarian news agency MTI by telephone from Toronto on Wednesday.

In the context of the conference held in the Canadian city with respect to the reform processes launched in Ukraine, the politician said the former Ukrainian leadership under Ukrainian President Poroshenko pursued a positively anti-Hungarian policy, as a result of which the rights of the Hungarian community in Transcarpathia were seriously curtailed.

The law on education and language usage took away previously acquired rights. This is absolutely contrary to all European standards, international law and Hungarian-Ukrainian bilateral undertakings. The new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky offers a new hope that Ukraine will not pursue an anti-Hungarian policy, Mr Szijjártó said.

The new Ukrainian president’s statements are promising, but only give rise to cautious optimism. The true watershed will be whether Mr Zelensky will implement the legal changes after the parliamentary elections, in the wake of which the Hungarian national community could regain its former rights, he said.

Hungary expects Ukraine to give these rights back. If this happens, then Hungary will consent to the convening of the next meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, the Minister added.

Mr Szijjártó said Hungary will suggest to Ukraine that relations between the two countries should be restored to their former state when they were based on mutual respect, before the Hungarian community was deprived of rights which it had acquired earlier.

If the Ukrainian party does so, Hungary will be ready to implement a comprehensive economic cooperation plan with Ukraine, as part of which it would finance road construction projects in the territory of Transcarpathia with a fixed aid credit package worth EUR 50 million, the politician said.

Within the framework of this, they would open four new border crossing points between Hungary and Ukraine. Additionally, Hungary would provide one hundred scholarships for Ukrainian students at Hungarian universities. They would revive the operation of the economic and environmental mixed committees, and would continue the economic development programme in Transcarpathia.

As part of this, Hungary has provided budgetary grants worth some HUF 14 billion for 5,591 small and medium-sized businesses and farmers. In continuation of the programme, Hungary would increase this sum by another one and a half billion forints. This would be in line with the interests of Hungary and Ukraine, but in particular, with the interests of the Hungarians living in the territory of Transcarpathia, the Minister said.

The politician also said he highlighted at the Toronto conference that Hungary – as a state bordering Ukraine – has a vested interest in a strong, stable and democratic Ukraine.

Budapest has always stood up for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, the Minister stated.

As part of the forum, Mr Szijjártó conducted bilateral talks with Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, Ukrainian First Vice Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv, US Special Representative Kurt Volker, and Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Mariana Nikolova.