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Hungary to block Ukraine NATO bid over language law

The Hungarian government will continue to block talks between NATO and Ukraine in anger at a newly-adopted Ukrainian law limiting the use of minority languages.

Passed by Ukraine’s parliament on April 25, the law makes the use of the the Ukrainian language compulsory for all citizens, except for private conversations and religious ceremonies. Amongst others, the law is applicable to all public servants including those working in healthcare and education.

According to the law, the state will organise Ukrainian language courses for adults and establish a committee supervising the use of the state’s language in official circumstances.

“The adoption of the draft law on ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language is a historic decision,” said outgoing Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko.

President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky, whose mother tongue is Russian, promised that he will examine the new law.

“After I become president, careful analysis of this law will take place to make sure that the constitutional rights and interests of all citizens of Ukraine are observed,” said Mr Zelensky, who nevertheless emphasised that the Ukrainian language will remain the only state language of the country.

“The law which violates the rights of the Hungarian community in the neighbouring country reflects the ideals of outgoing President Petro Poroshenko who pursued an anti-Hungarian policy,” said Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó, expressing his hope to work with president-elect Zelensky after he takes office in June.

Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin reacted angrily to Mr Szijjártó’s statement.

“I believe that our Hungarian partners deliberately chose a line of confrontation,” he said, adding that he will discuss the issue with Mr Szijjártó during the Eastern Partnership Summit in May. The Ukrainian FM stressed that there is a need for a separate law on minority languages. “[Minorities] should have the right to receive education in their own languages, of course, their rights should not be limited, but they should get a real chance to learn Ukrainian.”

The number of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine, most of whom live in the Zakarpattia region, is estimated at 140,000.

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