Hungary Threatens ‘Pain’ For Ukraine Over Controversial Language Law

Hungary has pledged to block Ukraine’s further integration with Europe after Kyiv enacted a controversial education law that critics say will restrict the study of minority languages in schools.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on September 26 that the consequences for Kyiv would be “painful” after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed the measure making Ukrainian the required language of study in state schools from the fifth grade on.

“Hungary will block all steps within the European Union that would represent a step forward in Ukraine’s European integration process,” Szijjarto said in comments to the Hungarian news agency MTI that were also posted on the Hungarian government’s website.

“We can guarantee that all this will be painful for Ukraine in future,” Szijjarto added.

His comments come two months ahead of the Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels. A draft statement seen by RFE/RL last week suggests the summit will be dominated by the issue of the EU’s ties to Ukraine and two other ex-Soviet states, Georgia, and Moldova.

The new Ukrainian law does not outlaw instruction in other languages; students can still learn their native languages as a separate subject. Poroshenko said it “raises the role of Ukrainian as a state language in the education process” and “ensures equal opportunities for all.”

ALSO READ: Ukrainian Language Bill Facing Barrage Of Criticism From Minorities, Foreign Capitals

A spokesperson for the European Union called on Ukraine to make good on Kyiv’s pledge to submit the new law to the Council of Europe to obtain what she called an “expert opinion” on whether it meets the EU’s standards.

EU spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said such language laws “need to be carefully balanced” between the goal of instituting Ukrainian as the state language and “the need the protect minority and regional languages.”

Once the Council of Europe’s opinion is obtained, Kocijancic said its advice “should be duly taken into account…in advance of implementation of the legislation.”

Poroshenko’s assurances about the law haven’t assuaged the fears of sizable ethnic communities in Ukraine, including Poles, Romanians, and Hungarians. And the law has incensed officials in other countries neighboring Ukraine as well.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has said that the legislation “drastically limits” minority groups’ access to their respective…

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