Photo: Alexander Stemp

Nemeth: War can’t be excuse to restrict human, minority rights

Hungary stands by Ukraine and respects its unity and considers it important to preserve its independence, but the war cannot serve as an excuse to restrict human and minority rights, Zsolt Nemeth, the head of parliament's foreign affairs committee, said in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

Addressing a conference on the situation of minorities in Ukraine on the sidelines of the summer session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Nemeth welcomed the “milestone” of the Venice Commission’s report on Ukraine’s minority law.

The opinion published on June 13 is a “breakthrough”, Nemeth said. Acquired rights cannot be taken away and must be restored, he said, adding that Ukraine’s European integration could help promote this in the coming period.

“It is important to emphasise that we condemn Russia’s war,” Nemeth said. He also condemned that the minority issue had been cited as the reason for the aggression, saying this made it harder to represent national minority causes.

“We stand by Ukraine, but the war cannot serve as an excuse to restrict human and minority rights,” Nemeth said.

The international community has become determined to protect minority rights, he said, expressing hope that Ukraine would be open to the Venice Commission’s and the international community’s opinions.

Andrea Bocskor, an MEP of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz, stressed that the Venice Commission had declared that there were problems in Ukraine when it comes to the protection of minority rights.

Ukraine has been curbing minority rights for years, she said, adding that hopefully the Commission’s opinion and pressure from the international community would convince Kyiv to amend its minority law.

Bocskor cited the Venice Commission’s report as criticising the minority law for being “disproportionate” in “forcing the Ukrainian language onto minorities”, which she said would have an especially negative impact in the field of education.

She said the decision to delay the introduction of the amendment to the education law regarding bilingual education until Sept. 1, 2024 gave Transcarpathian Hungarians “breathing room”, adding however that this only delayed the problem.

Laszlo Brenzovics, head of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Cultural Association (KMKSZ), said Ukraine needed to return to the application of European norms that used to be part of the country’s legal system.

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