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Kuleba: Ukraine, Hungary to set up special commission to resolve national minorities issue

by The Kyiv Independent news desk and Kateryna Denisova January 29, 2024 10:17 PM 2 min read
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto (L), Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, and presidential office head Andriy Yermak (R) at a meeting in Uzhhorod on Jan. 29, 2024. (Office of the President)
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Ukraine and Hungary agreed to establish a special commission to deal with the unresolved issues of national minorities and to present a “concrete understanding” of this topic within 10 days, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Jan. 29.

The comments came at a joint press conference with Kuleba's Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto and Ukraine's Presidential Office head Andriy Yermak in Uzhhorod in Ukraine's Zakarpattia Oblast on Jan. 29.

Budapest has repeatedly accused Kyiv of oppressing the rights of Hungarian minorities that live in the western regions of Ukraine, near the border between the two countries.

During his first visit to Ukraine since the beginning of the all-out Russia war, Szijjarto said that Budapest had formulated an 11-point request to Ukraine regarding the rights of national minorities.

According to the minister, Hungary wants to return the rights its minority had before 2015. The list includes the restoration of the status of a national school, the ability to take a high school diploma in Hungarian, and the ability to use Hungarian in public life.

Kuleba said that the commission, organized by the two countries' foreign ministries, will present to the Ukrainian and Hungarian governments which issues on the list need to be resolved.

"If earlier we were moving on the issue of national minorities in the context of making decisions on Ukraine's membership in the EU, now we want to have this discussion at the bilateral level to resolve the issue,” Kuleba noted.

The language law, which has long a source of strife between Hungary and Ukraine, was instituted in 2017 and requires at least 70% of education above fifth grade to be conducted in Ukrainian.

Ukraine has significant Hungarian and Romanian minorities, and both countries have criticized the law as discriminatory. Ukraine responded that it does not intend to crack down on its minorities, only to ensure that every Ukrainian citizen has sufficient knowledge of Ukraine's official language.

In September 2023, the Ukrainian parliament approved changes to national minorities law, which was one of seven steps recommended by the European Commission in June 2022 for Ukraine's accession to the European Union. The changes were signed into law by President Volodymyr Zelensky in November.

Yermak: Kyiv, Budapest take ‘powerful step’ toward meeting between Zelensky, Orban
Negotiations with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto proved the mutual desire of Kyiv and Budapest to hold a bilateral meeting of the two countries’ leaders, Ukraine’s Presidential Office head Andriy Yermak said on Jan. 29, as cited by European Pravda.
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