News & Analysis

NATO expresses solidarity with Hungary over Ukrainian education law

Hungary’s NATO allies have urged Ukraine to implement changes to the country’s education law that limits the use of the Hungarian language.

Rose Gottemoeller, NATO’s deputy secretary general, said that NATO expresses solidarity with Hungary. “In the Brussels Declaration and in the assessment of Ukraine’s Annual Programme, all allies urge Ukraine to fully implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission,” Ms Gottemoeller added.

The deputy secretary general’s statement came after a meeting with Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó and defence minister Tibor Benkő in Budapest.

In February 2018, the Ukrainian cabinet introduced a bill limiting the use of the languages of ethnic minorities in the education system. According to the bill, ethnic communities in Ukraine would only be allowed to study in their own language until the fourth grade of elementary school, as opposed to the previous system when students were allowed to study in their own language until they completed secondary education.

The draft law, which is currently under consideration in parliament, was heavily criticised by Romania and Hungary. Around 100,000 ethnic Hungarians live in the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine.

Reacting to the bill in March last year, the Hungarian foreign minister demanded that Ukraine amends the law and postpones its implementation until 2023. Otherwise Hungary would block Ukraine’s integration into the EU and NATO.

Earlier this month, the Ukrainian government agreed to make amendments proposed by the Venice Commission and postpone the law until 2023.