“The fact that a country like Ukraine is in a geopolitically important position does not mean that it is exempted from adhering to international law, or from its obligation to protect the minorities living in its territory”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó declared in Brussels in the recess of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

The Minister told Hungarian reporters that in a recent letter to relevant EU officials and the Secretary General of NATO, he had stressed: Hungary would gladly return to a position supporting Ukraine if Kiev guarantees that the Education Act is not brought into force before 2023 and is tangibly amended.

“Ukraine must guarantee that the Act, which grossly infringes on the rights of minorities, is not introduced in any form until that time, and during this period it performs the required consultations with the Hungarian minority and implements what is agreed upon at those negotiations”, he explained. “In addition, a legal guarantee is required with relation to all this, because despite several verbal promises, things have regularly occurred in an opposite direction”, the Minister underlined.

“Hungary and the European Union expects Ukraine to implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission, to consult with national minorities and to take the ban on removing existing rights seriously. So negotiations with the Hungarian national community must begin and the implementation of the Ukrainian Education Act must be suspended”, he highlighted.

With relation to the Minority Language Act, Mr. Szijjártó said raising the ratio of a national community required for the use of a minority language from 10 percent to 33 percent was unacceptable.

As he explained, at the meeting he also expressed his concern with relation to the fact that Ukraine is planning to redeploy a battalion of some eight hundred to a thousand soldiers from the east to the city of Beregszász (Berehove), which is close to three NATO member states and home to the largest ratio of Hungarians. He added that even more worrying is the reason given by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, according to which the measure is necessary in view of threats to Ukraine’s territorial integrity. “This means that Kiev regards the Hungarian national community as a threat factor, which is outrageous, and is something that Hungary rejects in the strongest possible terms”, he declared.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade also pointed out that Hungary is one of three EU countries, including Poland and Slovakia, that is supplying natural gas to Ukraine following the dispute between Russian energy company Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz.

“When we talk about solidarity, these acts must also be taken into account, not just the emphatic statements”, the Minister said.

At the meeting of EU foreign ministers, Mr. Szijjártó also recalled that Hungary had been one of the strongest supporters of two of Ukraine’s most sensitive goals, visa liberalisation and the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. “With relation to Ukraine, Hungary has no other instruments at its disposal than to block Kiev’s international, European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations”, he said. “Accordingly, Hungary is also not supporting the holding of the EU-Ukraine defence ministers’ meeting planned for April, or the NATO-Ukraine summit scheduled for this summer. Hungary will only be supporting these meetings if Ukraine adheres to the abovementioned conditions and to its international obligations”, he said.

At the council meeting, he asked other EU foreign ministers not to look aside when Ukraine commits infringements of international law, but to instead make it clear that adhering to international law is one of the prerequisites for further progress and support with relation to the road towards European integration, Mr. Szijjártó said.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)