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Szijjarto: Hungary-Ukraine education team ‘fails to bring positions closer’

The education working group set up by the Hungarian and Ukrainian governments "has met once again but failed to bring positions closer," the foreign minister said in Brussels on Thursday, adding that Hungary "insists that the rights Ukraine's Hungarian minority should be fully restored."

Speaking at a press conference after a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council, Szijjarto said “the serious issue with Kyiv concerning the rights of the Hungarian community in Transcarpathia is still unresolved.”

“We insist that Ukraine restore rights to the Hungarian community that they had nine years ago, guaranteeing … the preservation of their Hungarian identity,” Szijjarto said, adding that they should be able use their mother tongue in educational and cultural settings, as well as in public administration and the media.

“We cannot accept less. Our Ukrainian partners are aware of that, even if they sometimes pretend not to be,” Szijjarto said, adding that the Hungarian government had consistently promoted its position in the past nine years.

The minister said it was “good news”, however, that the Hungary-Ukraine working group will resume meeting next week, with leaders of the two sides also meeting personally, which could “hopefully bring us closer to the reversal of the curbing of those rights… For now it still seems far away, but the fact of talks being held at all should be considered good news.”

The minister said that when NATO evaluates Ukraine’s progress, Hungary would “pay great attention to these aspects”. “When evaluating Ukraine’s performance we cannot overlook the fact that the Hungarian ethnic community in Transcarpathia has not yet been granted the rights it was earlier stripped of… Our allies must be aware of that. Hungary will insist at every international forum that the Trancarpathian community gets those rights back,” he said.

Meanwhile, Szijjarto said protests and blockades staged by Polish farmers had rendered trade across the Ukraine-Poland border “practically impossible”, resulting in “pressure greater than ever” on Hungary’s border with Ukraine.

“This creates unfair conditions: trucks leaving Ukraine often have to wait 14-16 days before crossing, which poses a serious … difficulties for the Hungarian economy, as many Hungarian companies are dependent on trade between Hungary and Ukraine,” he said, calling for a reducion of waiting times. “I want to firmly state that [Hungary] is not importing agricultural produce; Hungary is maintaining its ban on Ukrainian grain … since protecting the interests of Hungarian farmers is a priority,” he said.

Hungary’s ambassador to Ukraine will sign an agreement next Monday on opening a new crossing station between Nagyhodos in Hungary and Velyka Palad (Nagypalad) in Ukraine, Szijjarto said, adding that local Hungarians in Ukraine had a long-standing request for such a facility. Moreover, unloaded trucks will be given an opportunity to cross at Beregsurany, which will “reduce the problems of Hungarian companies relying on imports from Ukraine,” he added.

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