“Transcarpathian Hungarians want to make a living in the land of their birth, and it is Hungary’s constitutional duty to help them do so”, Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog declared at an event to mark the beginning of the academic year that the Ferenc Rákóczi II Transcarpathian Hungarian College in Beregsász (Berehove), Ukraine. At the event, Mr. Balog announced that Hungary will be constructing a swimming pool and sports hall in the Transcarpathian city at a cost of over one billion forints (EUR 3.2 million).

At the event, which was held in the local protestant church, the minister said that the Hungarian peoples who have been living on this land for a thousand years are a “resource” for both the Hungarian nation and Ukraine, and Hungary will not give up on this resource.

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“Accordingly, we are asking Ukraine’s politicians to also refrain from doing so”, he said, referring to the new Act on Education adopted by Ukraine’s Parliament, Article 7 of which restricts the rights of minorities to receive education in their native language.

“This article of the act is ‘bleeding from a thousand wounds’ and contradicts everything that liberated Ukraine and the Hungarian nation have agreed upon, in addition to a host of international agreements that Ukraine has undertaken on the road towards the community of European nations”, Mr. Balog declared. “Hungary has an interest in Ukraine’s freedom as a state, and in the peaceful prosperity of all of its citizens, and the Hungarian minority is not part of the problem, but wants to be part of the solution”, the Minister stressed.

“We are prepared to fight, we are prepared to negotiate and we are prepared to come to an agreement in the interests of minority education”, Mr. Balog underlined, adding that: “It is for this reason that the Hungarian Government had decided to fund the construction of a swimming pool and spots hall next to the College in Berehove at a cost of over one billion forints”.

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“The funding for the planning of the facilities is already available”, said the Minister, whose words were applauded in the church.

In his speech before the College’s administration and teachers, representatives of the Catholic and Protestant Churches and of political life in Transcarpathia and Hungary, in addition to newly sworn in college students and invited guests, Mr. Balog pointed out that the “land, language and faith” belongs to Transcarpathian Hungarians, and this community has always been characterise by an honest day’s work and loyalty towards the state. “Their work has served the country in which they live well, while their loyalty towards the Hungarian nation has remained unbroken”, he said.

Listing the funding and programmes that the homeland has provided to assist both Hungarian and Ukrainian families living here, the Minister pointed out that assisting the Ukrainian minority in Hungary is something natural for the State of Hungary, and the Government spends some one billion forints for this purpose every year.

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Recalling Transcarpathia’s history, Mr. Balog explained that the point is that Hungarians must be allowed to be and remain Hungarian, and the same goes for Ukrainians and Ruthenians. “The collapse of the Soviet Union and the establishment of Ukraine also meant that freedom had finally arrives for the Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia, but this freedom now seems to be becoming more distant. Ukraine, which is openly moving in a Westerly direction and which until now has striven to live in peace with its neighbours and afford its minorities the space and opportunity to live in freedom, is now offending every one of its Western neighbours while forgetting the fact that not too long ago the Ukrainian nation was also in a similarly suppressed situation”, the Minister pointed out.

Mr. Balog also complained about the fact that Ukraine, which is in favour of dialogue via the media, is not prepared to enter into negotiations with regard to the Education Act. “This is why it is important that the Transcarpathian County Council has stood up in support of the rights of Hungarians and Romanians, because the delegates who live here know that native language education is adding to their lives, not taking something away”, he noted.

In his speech, Mr. Balog called Article 7 of the new Education Act a dead end, pointing out that this is something that both the Russian Empire and the bureaucracy of the Soviet Union had previously forced on the Ukrainian nation.

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“We will be awaiting Ukraine with a handshake at the entrance to this dead end, to enable us to carry on forwards together on this road to Europe, for which our historic common fate has predestined us”, the Minister of Human Capacities declared. “Hungary and the other countries affected by the new Act will take all possible action before the international community to prevent this stripping away of rights”, he added.

In her speech, Rector of the Ferenc Rákóczi II Transcarpathian Hungarian College Ildikó Orosz said that a total of 1224 students had begun their studies at the institution’s various levels of education in the 2017/18 academic year, of whom 728 are studying full time, 210 are taking part in correspondence courses, and 286 are involved in external courses that are not accredited by Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Minister of Education and Science Lilia Hrynevych, who had received an invitation, did not attend the event.

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Following the official inauguration and swearing in of first year students, the Rákóczi Award was presented to the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Deputy State Secretary, József Bacskai, who was formerly Hungary’s Consul General in the Transcarpathian cities of Ungvár (Uzhhorod) and Beregszász (Berehove).

(Ministry of Human Capacities/MTI)