Gergely Gulyás, Head of the Prime Minister's Office, said the protection of the rights of indigenous ethnic minorities in Europe is indispensable when it comes to the protection of minorities more generally.
Speaking on the sidelines of a conference on the protection of minority rights held in advance of the Hungarian presidency of the Council of Europe starting on July 1, Gulyás said many people in Europe belonged to an indigenous minority rather than to mainstream society, so guaranteeing their rights was essential. The Council of Europe, with its 47 member states, has various conventions and documents that give due weight to national minorities and their situation. “The situation here [in respect of the CoE] is much better than in the European Union, which is insensitive as regards the issue,” he said.
Gulyás welcomed the Hungarian presidency’s decision to make the issue its main focal point. Besides several “laudable” practices to improve the situation of ethnic minorities, some European countries have introduced measures curbing their rights, Gulyás said. The minister cited the Ukrainian language law as an example, which he said curbed the rights of Hungarian communities to education in their mother tongue, “which the Ukrainian authorities have failed to change despite the recommendations of the Venice Commission”.
“Indigenous minorities are being discriminated against just because their culture and language are different from that of mainstream society. This should be talked about, and their problems should be known in Europe,” Gulyás said. Gulyás said he had called on CoE Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić to do everything in her power to push Ukraine to fulfil its duties as enshrined in international laws and treaties. “The more international organisations put pressure on the country, the greater the chance that the Ukrainian leadership will grasp that scrapping discrimination against minorities and restoring the language rights … is also in their interest,” he said.