On October 12, following the debates on the language clause of the Ukrainian law “On Education,” the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) approved most of the proposals of Hungarian and Rumanian members. The PACE resolution condemns rather harshly the fact that the Verkhovna Rada passed the education law, amending Article 7 (on the medium of instruction) without consulting representatives of ethnic minorities. The assembly also requested Ukraine to take into account all recommendations of the Venice Commission and make changes in the law “On Education.”
A few days ago, Hungarian officials announced that Hungary would initiate revision of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement at the next EU Council session because of the education law. Still earlier, they had said they would be blocking all the further decisions of the European Union aimed at a rapprochement between the EU and Ukraine. It also became known the other day that the Hungarians were preparing one more “surprise.” “Hungary’s Foreign Ministry informed our embassy of a rally under the slogan of ‘Self-Determination for Transcarpathia’ to be held on October 13. What is this? Is Budapest supporting separatism? We immediately sent a note of protest with a demand to ban this provocation. We are sure Hungary will continue to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin tweeted.
As Russia is at war against Ukraine, this kind of actions is in no way to the benefit of Ukraine – on the contrary, it is sort of a stab in the back. In this connection, statesman Yevhen Marchuk, chair of the Ukrainian working group for security in the Trilateral Contact Group, wrote very wittingly in Facebook:
“In connection with the provocative behavior of Hungary in respect of Ukraine, I’ve just recalled one thing.
“Two years ago, Hungary admitted having sent its agents to Kyiv – because of the war, Ukrinform says.
“Reading this information, let’s look at the structure of the population in Transcarpathian oblast (data for 2010): a total of 1,244,000 residents, including 1,010,000 Ukrainians and 151,516 Hungarians, i.e., 12.08 percent. They live compactly in four districts. For example, there are 18,000 Ukrainians and 76,000 Hungarians in Berehove raion; 58,000 Ukrainians and 33,000 Hungarians in the city and raion of Uzhhorod; 12,700 Hungarians in the town and raion of Mukacheve, and 26,000 Hungarians in Vynohradiv raion. The Hungarian language is on a par with Ukrainian. For example, 80 percent of residents in Berehove raion, 36.5 percent in Uzhhorod raion, 26 percent in Vynohradiv raion, and 13.8 percent in Mukacheve raion consider Hungarian their native language.
“The Hungarian consul in Uzhhorod is an influential and respected person.
“It is relatively easy to ‘set all this on fire.’ Especially when reports are rife that it is necessary to send Hungarian agents to Kyiv. Or when an idiocy – like the one that took place yesterday – occurs in this wonderful area. Or when all of Ukraine comes to know that two warring clans with Ukrainian MPs at the head really held sway in the region until yesterday.
“I think they are burning to see full decentralization – so that no big bosses come to them from Kyiv at all. But, to tell the truth, no central governmental leaders visit them now anyway.
“What decentralization, gentlemen?! It is first necessary to centralize the state and the country in a normal European manner.”
Indeed, the current actions of Hungary are absolutely unfriendly, and Ukraine must show an adequate reaction. But there are also other causes of today’s situation in Transcarpathia. We have often been writing that Ukraine’s second President Leonid Kuchma “leased out” the Donbas to local clans as far back as the 1990s, which resulted many years later in a war and the occupation of a part of our territory. But there was a similar situation in other regions. Transcarpathia was also “leased out” to local clans. Presidents and premiers visited this place very seldom. In other words, the region did not receive the attention it needed. Accordingly, Ukrainian statehood was not being established in Transcarpathia at a proper level, which both the local clans and the neighboring countries, particularly Hungary, were taking advantage of. The result is obvious.
“IT IS AN OVERT CALL FOR SEPARATISM IN TRANSCARPATHIA”
Yurii KRAVCHENKO, president, Ukrainian self-government board in Hungary:
“We are taking a very negative attitude to this initiative. In my opinion, it will depend on the results of the two foreign ministers’ talks whether this event will take place. But I think that, in all probability, the ministers will agree that this action must be banned, for nobody needs it and it is an overt call for separatism in Transcarpathia. And we know what separatism is and what it led to in Donetsk. So, we hope this action will be stopped. The action in defense of the language and education was natural and clear, but the name of this action is utterly provocative.
“There are very many groupings of all kinds in Hungary that are toying with illusory ideas. So, it is rather easy for somebody to initiate an action like this. I don’t think the Hungarian government itself is inciting this affair. Somebody had just applied, and they were allowed to do this at the very moment when relations with Ukraine are not so good.
“As for the law on education, I, for example, don’t approve of the language article. I think it is written poorly. If it were drawn up more clearly and prepared better, it may not have caused a reaction like this. This is a necessary law, and I wholeheartedly support the idea that all minorities in Ukraine should know the Ukrainian language. It is a must. But, on the other hand, it should be well-balanced, for we are going to Europe, not to Russia. In Europe, national minorities are not an internal affair of the state. Therefore, one should draw up this kind of laws in a more balanced way, especially if they touch upon the interests of European states – otherwise, there will be such conflicts again. This situation can be settled if we jointly draw up a law that will make it clear to the Hungarians, Rumanians, and all the other minorities that their education will be in no way suppressed but they will also have a Ukrainian education.
“There is a law like this here in Hungary. The Ukrainians, for example, do not have a school of their own because we live scattered. Some other, smaller, minorities live compactly and have their own schools for this reason. Teaching is conducted in them in the minority languages – Serbian, German, etc. But the Hungarian state sees to it that the Hungarian language is also taught. There is a major problem in Transcarpathia: teachers of the Ukrainian language for Hungarians have neither good schoolbooks nor any methodology of teaching. In more than 20 years of independence, Ukraine has done nothing for Hungarian children to know the Ukrainian language but suddenly passes this law now.”
“OFFICIAL HUNGARY IS TRYING TO PREVENT UKRAINE AS A STATE FROM STRENGTHENING ITS POSITIONS”
Vasyl LEMAK, Doctor of Law, Professor, Uzhhorod National University:
“The action with a provocative slogan ‘Self-Determination of Transcarpathia’ should be clearly regarded as part of that state’s official foreign political course after 2010. Among the rally’s speakers is a European Parliament member and representatives of Hungarian ethnic minorities abroad. The Budapest rally announcements include claims about ‘Ukrainian education and suppression of Transcarpathian Hungarians’ rights’ and, at the same time, calls ‘to stop the putschists’ barbarity,” which is overtly in common with Russian propagandistic rhetoric.
“Among the rally organizers is Jobbik, an extremist far right political force. It is often considered as a ‘hidden instrument’ of official Budapest, through which the leadership of this EU member state can voice its attitude indirectly. This party is particular in having a paramilitary wing and focusing on xenophobic topics. But if you analyze its activities, you will see that they boil down to informational support for Russian policies in Europe, with a large number of actions being devoted to the ‘Ukrainian issue.’ Assessments, selection of facts, and conceptual patterns repeat word for word the foreign-policy messages of Moscow. I will note that it would be wrong to consider this force marginal. Jobbik is today the third largest parliamentary party by the results of the 2014 elections (23 seats out of 199). Fidesz-KDNP has 133 seats. But you should know the specifics of present-day Hungary’s electoral system. Jobbik gained about 1 million votes, whereas Fidesz-KDNP won more than 2 million votes (with a turnout of 5 million people). Every fifth voter opted for Jobbik, which exposes the sentiments of a considerable part of Hungarian society.
“Hungary is trying to speculate on the fact that ethnic Hungarians account for the majority in the borderline Berehove raion, Transcarpathian oblast, and live compactly in dozens of other villages in Vynohradiv, Uzhhorod, and other raions, and is alleging that the new law ‘On Education’ is a ‘threat’ to them. If you take a closer look at this, official Hungary is trying to hinder Ukraine as a state from strengthening its positions, which has been the case in the past few years, its defense resource and international support – in particular, it is trying to respond to the first attempts to resolve the problem of governmental officials’ dual passports.”
“IT IS WORTHWHILE TO NEUTRALIZE THE NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF THE BUDAPEST ACTION BY WAY OF DIPLOMACY”
Ihor TODOROV, Doctor of History, Professor, Uzhhorod National University:
“The announcement of a rally under the slogan of ‘Self-Determination for Transcarpathia’ in Budapest on October 13 arouses not just preoccupation but indignation. The in-depth motifs of the vociferous campaign Hungary has launched over the ‘language clause’ of the Ukrainian law ‘On Education’ seem to be surfacing. Ukraine pursues a sound and tolerant policy about ethnic minorities, and some people in the neighboring countries seem to be taking it as our weakness.
“It is all the more sad that this is occurring against the backdrop of a Russian invasion in eastern and southern Ukraine. This naturally raises questions about common European values referred to in the preamble to the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement which came into force last month. So, it is worthwhile to wait for a decision of the Venice Commission and neutralize the negative impacts of the Budapest action by way of diplomacy. It would be good if local government bodies and Hungarian community organizations in Transcarpathian oblast expressed their attitude to the so-called ‘self-determination for Transcarpathia.’”
“UKRAINIAN DIPLOMACY SHOULD BE MUCH MORE CREATIVE”
Inna TURIANYTSIA, Candidate of Sciences (History); Director, NATO Information Center at Uzhhorod National University:
“It is no secret that members of the Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia have poor knowledge of the official language. I know from my five years of working at Uzhhorod National University’s Department of Hungarian History and Euro-Integration that it is an extremely widespread phenomenon even among students. There have been frequent instances in my teaching practice when students were unable to speak Ukrainian when taking an exam in the history of Ukraine.
“Official Budapest and nongovernmental organizations of Hungary are rather active in protecting the rights of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine and sponsoring various forms of the cultural and educational life and public activity of the Hungarian minority. It is perhaps instructive. I am absolutely convinced that Ukrainian diplomacy should be much more creative in defending the rights of the Ukrainian diaspora in the neighboring countries and really promote the preservation of our compatriots’ linguistic, ethic, and cultural identity because far from everything is all right in this question, too. But, in addition to this, developing the mechanisms that improve the command of the official language by all the minorities without an exception, coupled with guaranteeing and protecting their legitimate right to preserve their own linguistic and cultural specifics, is of paramount importance.
“I think that, with due account of the obvious complexity and social importance of this question, it should have been put to a debate between all the interested parties, including Ukraine’s partners on the international arena. At the same time, inciting Hungarian separatism in Transcarpathia and contributing, overtly or covertly, to separatist actions is inadmissible and must trigger a strong reaction of the Ukrainian leadership, for this is a violation of not only the principles of neighborliness, but also of the basics of the European and international order and the legal commitments of Ukraine’s partners. And the main goal is to abide by the civilized rules of the game in domestic and international policies.”