“It is totally natural and normal for Hungary and Romania to take joint action with regard to the amendment of Ukraine’s Act on Education”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said in a telephone statement to Hungarian news agency MTI, reporting on his visit to Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca) on Monday.

“The amendment to the Act violates the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, the conclusion of which was supported by both Hungary and Romania, and accordingly our two countries now regard the events as a ‘stab in the back’. The fact that both the Language Act and the Nationality Act are currently before Ukraine’s Parliament is also cause for concern”, he said.

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“Hungary has an interest in establishing and maintaining a strategic relationship with Romania, in view of the fact that it is much better to build joint success stories than to handle conflicts”, Mr. Szijjártó highlighted.

“Despite both countries having repeatedly asked Ukraine not to amend the Education Act, they did so regardless, even though the legislation is a major violation of the rights of minorities”, he pointed out. “There are more than half a million Hungarians and Romanians living in Ukraine, and this is one of the reasons we are taking joint action with regard to the case”, he said.

According to the Hungarian Foreign Minister, Ukraine’s new Education Act also contravenes the country’s own Constitution, giving certain minorities more rights than others, while with relation to the Language Act, he said that if Kiev’s Parliament were to adopt the Act like its Cultural Committee already has, then opportunities for the Hungarian and Romanian minorities to study in their native language would be seriously curtailed. “This is one of the reasons why it is important for our two countries to take joint action with regard to the Education Act, because this sends a clear message that Ukraine’s Parliament should not adopt the new legislation currently before it, because that would only serve to further restrict the rights of minorities”, he added.

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Mr. Szijjártó noted that this was the third time in two and a half months that he had held bilateral talks with Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, but that “this was perfectly normal”. “Hungary and Romania are two neighbouring countries with many close ties via their minorities, and are also important economic partners”, he added.

The Minister said he and his Romanian counterpart had agreed that national minorities must be regarded as resources in their bilateral relations.

Mr. Szijjártó also mentioned that he hoped the situation surrounding the Catholic School in Marosvásárhely (Targu Mures) would be successfully settled, and that cooperation between the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), the Catholic Church and Romania’s governing coalition would indeed solve the situation at the earliest opportunity.

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“The number of motorway connections between Hungary and Romania will be increased from one to two by 2020, but the two countries should be connected ‘to a much greater extent’, and accordingly it is hoped that the ten border crossing points that currently only operate at the weekends will remain permanently open in the near future. Transport development in Europe currently means fundamentally high-speed railway development projects, and for this reason we are supporting plans for the construction of a high-speed railway line between Budapest and Cluj-Napoca, which could be the first stage of a high-speed rail connection between the two countries’ capitals”, he said.

“It is good news with relation to energy security that, based on the agreement between system operators, we will already have the opportunity to transport a significant quantity of natural gas to Hungary via Romania by 2019, and that by 2022 the distribution of 4.4 billion cubic metres of natural gas will become possible between the two countries”, the Minister told the press.