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15 Feb, 2023 18:54

Kiev's treatment of minorities to be investigated – Budapest

Ukraine has stripped the language rights of more than 150,000 Hungarians living on its territory
Kiev's treatment of minorities to be investigated – Budapest

The Council of Europe will release a report this summer on Ukraine’s alleged discrimination against ethnic Hungarians and Romanians living on its territory, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto announced on Wednesday. Hungarian inhabitants of the Transcarpathia region have lost the right to education in their language and have been forcibly drafted into Kiev’s military.

In a post on Facebook, Szijjarto said that the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission – which scrutinizes constitutional law and democratic reforms – will give its opinion on the matter in July.

“When war broke out next door, we decided not to mention the case of violations of rights against national communities,” Szijjarto wrote. “Unfortunately, in Ukraine, a new law was recently adopted, which further restricts minority rights.”

Szijjarto was referring to a law passed in December which mandated that the Ukrainian language be used in most aspects of daily and public life, including in schools. Previous language laws passed by Kiev were criticized by the Venice Commission for failing to safeguard minorities’ linguistic rights, and the latest legislation has been condemned by human rights organizations. 

Around 156,000 ethnic Hungarians live in Ukraine, most of them in the region of Transcarpathia. Once a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, this region fell under Soviet control after World War II and remained in Kiev’s hands when the Ukrainian SSR became modern Ukraine after the fall of the USSR. Ukraine is also home to around 150,000 ethnic Romanians and more than 250,000 Moldovans, and Bucharest has joined Budapest in demanding that the language law be revised. 

The Ukrainian government's forcible drafting of Transcarpathian Hungarians into military service has further inflamed tensions between Budapest and Kiev. As videos surfaced last month showing Ukrainian troops press-ganging recruits into service, Szijjarto condemned the “brutal” nature of the draft.

Should the Council of Europe fail to resolve Hungary’s grievances, Szijjarto wrote in a separate Facebook post that Budapest will take its case to the European Court of Human Rights – itself a body of the council – as a “last resort.”