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Ukraine, Hungary Seek To Overcome Impasse Over Language Law Impeding NATO Initiatives


Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (left) and his Hungarian counterpart, Peter Szijjarto, attend a signing ceremony in Budapest on May 29.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto have discussed Kyiv-Budapest bilateral ties at a time Hungary is blocking NATO initiatives because of a restrictive language law in Ukraine.

The May 29 trip to Budapest is Kuleba's first non-virtual visit as foreign minister since the introduction of restrictive measures to slow down the coronavirus pandemic. He assumed the post of foreign minister in early March.

The two ministers discussed investment and trade cooperation, joint efforts to implement infrastructure projects in Ukraine's western region of Zakarpattya where there is a sizeable Hungarian minority, and ways to further coordinate against the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a press conference after the talks, Kuleba said that "the time has come to open a new chapter in bilateral relations, find mutually beneficial solutions, double our efforts for the benefit of our people, countries, and the continent in general."

Szijjarto said that his country is also looking forward to developing closer ties with Ukraine, expressing hope that the issue of Ukraine's laws on education and languages will be resolved, paving the way for better understanding.

Hungary has been blocking NATO initiatives aimed at building closer ties with Ukraine since September 2017 in response to a new language law that overturned legislation allowing minorities in Ukraine to introduce their languages in regions where they represent more than 10 percent of the population.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) criticized the new law, saying it "does not appear to strike an appropriate balance between the official language and the languages of national minorities."

"We do not want to keep blocking [NATO initiatives], our goal is to reach agreements. We want to close all discussions related to [Ukraine's] law on education and language, and we want to reach a solution that will be acceptable for Hungarians [in Ukraine's western Zakarpattya region]," Szijjarto said.

Kuleba also passed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's invitation to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to visit Ukraine.

With reporting by Ukrinform, Hungary Today, and Ukrayinska Pravda
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