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Ukraine to set up commission to deal with Hungarian minority concerns

Ukraine and Hungary agreed to create a commission to resolve the issues related to the rights of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, which have strained the bilateral relations between the two countries.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba during the meeting with his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto on 11 December. Credit: Peter Szijjarto/Facebook

Ukraine is committed to settling the dispute with Hungary over the rights of the Hungarian national minority in Ukraine, the Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, announced during the joint press conference with Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó in the Ukrainian border city of Uzhhorod on 29 January 2024.

According to Dmytro Kuleba, a special commission under the auspices of Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry will be established to deal with all issues concerning the rights of the Hungarian national minority in Ukraine, the European Pravda reported.

Dmytro Kuleba said that a significant part of the meeting with Péter Szijjártó in Uzhhorod was devoted to the issue of national minorities. According to Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Péter Szijjártó listed problems that, from the Hungarian point of view, require either clarification or additional resolution at the level of bylaws.

“We agreed on a straightforward thing. We asked the Hungarian side to provide us with an exhaustive list of questions that it has about protecting minority rights, and we received this list. We have agreed that under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine we will assemble a special commission, which has one simple task: in ten days it should submit to the governments of both countries a concrete understanding of how and what from the list of questions we have received needs to be resolved or has already been resolved, so that we can bring final clarity,” Dmytro Kuleba said.

The Ukrainian dispute with Hungary over the rights of Ukraine’s Hungarian national minority was related to decision-making regarding Ukraine’s membership in the EU. Hungary’s top officials, including Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, have repeatedly emphasized that the Hungarian national minority, which is compactly residing in the Zakarpattia Oblast of western Ukraine, should have more rights than it currently has at the legislative level.

On 29 January, during his visit to Uzhhorod, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said that Budapest wants the Hungarian minority in Zakarpattia to “regain the rights” it had before Ukraine’s parliament adopted a new law on national minorities. According to him, a Hungarian representative will participate in the commission’s work that will discuss the Hungarian requests with the Ukrainian side.

“We devoted part of the time allocated for the talks to national minorities. Based on what the representatives of the Transcarpathian Hungarian minority asked for, we ask the Ukrainian government to ensure the rights that existed before 2015,” Szijjarto said. “We hope that results will be achieved here, and we hope that the decisions made will be enshrined in laws,” the Hungarian minister added.

Péter Szijjártó clarified that the Hungarian government had formulated a request in 11 points: in particular, the restoration of the status of the national Hungarian school in Ukraine’s Zakarpattia Oblast, the possibility of taking a high school diploma in Hungarian and using Hungarian in public life.

The Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) passed the law on national minorities on 8 December, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed it the same day. Leaders of the Hungarian communities in Ukraine praised the new law, but Hungarian officials criticized it.

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