Following talks with United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris on Friday in New York, Foreign Minister Szijjártó said that Hungary will never be able to support Ukraine's transatlantic and European integration as long as Hungarian schools in Transcarpathia are at risk. Because, as the FM also argued, despite the fact that Ukrainian refugees are attending 1,300 schools and kindergartens in Hungary, the future of 99 Hungarian primary and secondary schools in Ukraine hangs in the balance.
It’s a shame. Since 2015, Ukraine has adopted a number of laws that gradually violated and reduced minority rights related to the use of the mother tongue. Ukraine’s 2017 education law arbitrarily divided Ukrainian society into 4 castes: Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, minorities with an EU mother tongue (this is where Hungarians fall), and minorities with a non-EU mother tongue (Russians, Belorussians).
Each of these castes had different language rights in the Ukrainian education system. According to the rules, Hungarians could only study in their mother tongue until the 4th grade of primary school and would then have to gradually increase the share of Ukrainian language subjects in their curriculum.
Then came the 2019 Ukrainian Language Law, which decided "to ensure the functioning of the Ukrainian language as a state language," further tightening the language rules.
Under this law, all citizens of Ukraine were obliged to speak Ukrainian at a B1 level. But the law did not stop there: all government officials, members of parliament, and literally anyone within the state administration, education and healthcare system were forced to use Ukrainian and only Ukrainian.
Before it was replaced this past winter, the law had been updated with measures ranging from requiring state workers to hold Ukrainian language exams, controlling the language of cultural life, and limiting the rights of language minorities.
The Ukrainian Constitutional Court, of course, took no issue with the dramatic discrimination of minorities.
While the new education law was passed in December with the promise of a significant improvement for the Hungarians in Transcarpathia regarding language rights, the Ukrainian government is yet to deliver on this promise.
"For the past 8 years, we have been receiving promises from the Ukrainian authorities that they would solve this problem, but in fact they have done nothing,” FM Szijjártó said recently, making it clear that Hungary will not be able to support Ukraine's transatlantic and European integration as long as Hungarian schools in Transcarpathia are in danger.
The ball is in their court.