The protection of national minorities should be an essential condition for Ukraine’s EU aspirations!

2021. 03. 30.

The meeting of the European Parliament’s Intergroup Working Group on Minorities included a discussion on the situation of the Hungarian minority living in Ukraine at the initiative of Fidesz MEP Andrea Bocskor. The aim of the online meeting was to draw the European decision-makers’ attention to the ongoing struggle of the Hungarian community in Transcarpathia for their existence and language and education rights; as well  as  to give information about the measures taken against members and leaders of the Hungarian minority, including political pressure and their devastating impact on the Hungarian communities life.

In addition to the systemic restrictions on the linguistic and educational rights of the Hungarians of Transcarpathia that have been in place for years, the Kievian government is now preparing another unacceptable law and measure: instructing the listing of dual citizenship.

The meeting was attended by László Brenzovics, President of the Cultural Alliance of Hungarians in Sub-Carpathia (KMKSZ), Member of the County Council of Sub-Carpathia, who briefed the participants on the historical context of the Ukrainian minority legal framework which for years have been aimed at the assimilation of national minorities, the elimination of their national culture, language and education in Ukraine. The President of the KMKSZ drew attention to the fact that, in addition to intimidation, the danger arises from the criminalization of those who speak out against the minority processes in Ukraine, as they are no longer simply under political pressure, but are being prosecuted with fabricated charges to silence them. Furthermore, a documentary trailer was presented at the meeting, which summarizes the acts, intimidating actions and restrictions of the rights committed against the Hungarians of Transcarpathia in the period between 2019-2021.

MEP Andrea Bocskor said that it is our task not to give up the fight for minority rights, because the survival of the Hungarian community in Transcarpathia is at stake. European and international politics must stand up for the rights of Ukraine’s national minorities, including Hungarians, as this is a fundamental condition of democracy and European integration. It is important that the reform process in Ukraine brings better living conditions for all members of society, and we cannot allow discrimination, intimidation and assimilation to characterize the development line of a country associated with the European Union. We want to support the democratic transformation of Ukraine as its partners, and this is only possible if our views are really sought and taken into account. Progress can only be achieved if European and international partners do not turn a blind eye to violations and threats, but clearly signal that they are unacceptable. It would be absurd to allow Ukraine, which is striving to become a part of a diverse European Union, to uniformize and discriminate, as Ukraine’s relationship with minorities is an important measure of the state of democracy and reform in the country.

MEP Kinga Gál, co-chair of the Minority Working Group, said that the rights of minorities in Ukraine, including the Hungarians in Transcarpathia, were being severely violated week by week. That is why it is so timely to discuss the situation of the Hungarians in Transcarpathia, as this will allow MEPs to receive first-hand information on the issue. “The environment is hostile in Ukraine. Those who stand up for their community are intimidated. Apparently, there is no political will to adhere to one of the most fundamental principles of the Union. What László Brenzovics said confirms that we need to strengthen on a European and EU level our stand for Hungarians in Transcarpathia. We need to support Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi in raising these basic criteria and holding the Ukrainian side to account.  We also call on High Representative Borrell to take concrete steps towards the Ukrainian side that the violation of the acquired rights of minorities is incompatible with EU principles and does not help Ukraine’s EU aspirations”.

MEP Loránt Vincze, DAHR Co-Chair of the Minority Working Group, emphasized that minority rights, such as the use of the mother tongue, the right to mother tongue education are fundamental rights of all people, and that Ukraine should also guarantee this right to indigenous minorities. The measure of democracy is how a particular state treats the minorities living there. The affected communities must be involved in the drafting of the minority law by the state authorities, which is an essential condition for the adoption of legislation that serves the interests of minorities.

Background: Since the local elections held in October 2020, Hungarian civil society organizations, the media and representatives of local councils have been subjected to negative media propaganda, direct political pressure and threats from far-right nationalists and state security services. In Ukraine, during the difficult period of the Covid-19 epidemic, ethnic-based hate speech and incitement continue, which are still not investigated or prevented by the authorities. All this is further enhanced by the fact that in February 2021, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky announced the preparation of a new law regulating the situation of national minorities living in Ukraine. According to leaked information about the law, this draft represents a huge step backwards compared to the law in force since 1992, in the preparation of which, moreover, despite all promises, local advocacy organizations were not involved. From March 2021, in preparation for the regulation of dual citizenship, the authorities were ordered to search for dual citizens, thereby issuing a decree listing Ukraine’s own citizens.