“There is some favourable progress within the field of regulations that effect the Hungarian community in Ukraine, and there is some progress in general bilateral relations between Budapest and Kiev”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó declared following bilateral talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on the sidelines of a session of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Ministerial Council in Milan on Thursday.

Mr. Szijjártó said that Ukrainian Parliament had placed the vote on the extension of the transition period of the new Education Act onto its agenda. This is unfortunately not a guarantee that the vote will be held, he said, pointing out that there have already been two similar, unsuccessful initiatives.

“We certainly value the Ukrainian Government’s intent to have Parliament place onto its agenda a vote on the fact that the transition period prior to the coming into force of the new Education Act should be extended until 2023 in accordance with the expectations of the European Union”, the Minister highlighted.

“We also regard as positive the fact that we have mutually permitted the opening of honorary consulates in Siófok and Ternopil”, he added.

Mr. Szijjártó said it was also positive that the Hungarian Ambassador has been able to begin his operations in Kiev, and that he and the Ukrainian party had also come to an agreement on the prolonged opening hours of the border crossing stations at Barabás and Lónya.

It is also good news that some progress has been made with relation to the establishment of two new border crossing stations at Nagypalád and Nagyhódos, he stated. The Foreign Minister also reported on the fact that a new InterCity rail route will begin carrying passengers between Mukachevo (Munkács) and Budapest after the new timetable is introduced on 9 December.

Mr. Szijjártó told the press that he will be meeting his Ukrainian counterpart again on 10 December in Brussels, highlighting that both parties regard continuous dialogue as extremely important. “Our aim of rebuilding trust remains unchanged”, he stressed. “I continue to believe that maintaining dialogue is of critical importance to enable us to solve critical issues in the interests of Transcarpathian Hungarians”, he pointed out.

Mr. Szijjártó also reported on his meeting with OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Lamberto Zannier. Commissioner Zannier assured the Hungarian Foreign Minister that he will continue to closely monitor Ukrainian decisions that affect the fate of the local Hungarian national community in future.

At a meeting with Holy See State Secretary, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Hungarian Foreign Minister assured his negotiating partner that the Hungarian Government continues to feel a responsibility towards supporting endangered Christian communities. He said that Hungary is contributing two million dollars towards the healthcare and pharmaceutical expenditure of three Syrian hospitals, in addition to which the Hungarian Government has undertaken the renovation of a basilica and three smaller churches that were damaged in the Mexico earthquake, and has earmarked a budget of two billion forints (EUR 6.2 million) for this purpose.

Mr. Szijjártó also mentioned his meeting with Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism. “Hungary maintains its policy of always approaching issues relating to Israel in a fair and balanced manner, and always striving on international forums to assure that the approach of international organisations towards Israel is also balanced and fair”, he highlighted.

During the course of the day the Hungarian Foreign Minister will also be meeting with his counterparts from Kirgizstan and Bosnia.