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Hungary’s top diplomat said that Kiev needs to look after its minority populations
Hungary’s foreign minister has offered the Ukrainian government advice on joining NATO, saying that it needs to better respect the rights of minority populations if it wants to eventually be let into the military bloc.
In an interview published by TASS on Thursday, Peter Szijjarto said that Kiev still has plenty of issues to resolve before it could be inducted into NATO. “The Ukrainians need to make many serious changes, if they are seriously thinking about Euro Atlantic integration,” he explained. “I can speak concretely about one area: respecting the rights of national minorities. Because right now Ukraine has plenty of problems there.”
He clarified that Budapest is not satisfied with how ethnic minorities are being treated in Ukraine. “Their right to education in their native language and its use in administration, culture, and religion is being violated. The law prohibiting people with dual-citizenship from serving in public office is antidemocratic. We understand the challenges Ukraine is dealing with, its fight for sovereignty and territorial integrity, but we will never accept this approach to national minorities.”
A census taken in 2001 showed that about 77.8% of Ukraine’s population was ethnic Ukrainians. The largest minority groups were Russians (17.3%), Belarusians (0.6%), Moldovans (0.5%), Crimean Tatars (0.5%), and Bulgarians (0.4%). Another census was meant to be taken in 2010, but it was postponed until 2020, and then postponed again. In 2020, an official stated that it would not happen in 2021 either, saying that a census is “an expensive pleasure.”
Szijjarto has previously criticized Kiev for violating the rights of Hungarian minorities in Ukraine, pointing to a 2017 law that banned the use of foreign tongues in educational institutions. The government has also come under fire for a law drafted last year that would deny official minority status to any group considered to have a state elsewhere, including Hungarians and Russians.