Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto says his country would like improve relations with Ukraine amid a dispute over a controversial language law.
The remarks came on February 7 during a visit to Kyiv by Szijjarto, his first trip to Hungary’s eastern neighbor since Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was elected last year.
“The Hungarian government is interested in renewing good neighborly relations with Ukraine,” Szijjarto said during a news conference with Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Kyiv in 2017 passed a law that emphasizes the instruction of Ukrainian in publicly funded schools and curtails the teaching of Russian and other minority languages, such as Romanian and Hungarian.
The Council of Europe’s constitutional experts have criticized the language legislation and previous regulations regarding educational institutions signed into law by the country’s previous president, Petro Poroshenko.
Hungary, in particular, opposes the law, saying it restricts the right of Ukraine’s ethnic Hungarian minority of approximately 125,000 people to be educated in their native language.
Kyiv maintains the legislation is designed to ensure that all Ukrainian citizens can speak the state’s official language, and it denies the law is discriminatory.
Hungarians are the largest minority group in Transcarpathia, a western Ukrainian region that was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
“We want the Hungarians who live in Transcarpathia to have the opportunity to preserve their native language,” Szijjarto said.
Szijjarto said “made a couple of suggestions” in a meeting with Ukraine’s education minister to resolve the situation and urged Kiev to consider them.
Kuleba said Ukraine wants Transcarpathia to become “a success story, thanks to the joint efforts of Ukraine and Hungary.”
Hungary, a member of NATO and the European Union, has threatened to stymie Ukraine’s aspirations of joining the organizations until matters dividing the countries are resolved.