Hungary says it will block Ukraine from joining NATO over controversial language law
Budapest has signaled that it will not support Ukraine’s bid to join NATO until Kiev reverses a law that places language restrictions on ethnic Hungarians and other minorities living in the country.
Legislation that limits the use of Hungarian, Russian, Romanian, and other minority languages in Ukraine must be repealed before Hungary backs Ukraine’s NATO membership, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Wednesday.
“We ask for no extra rights to Hungarians in Transcarpathia, only those rights they had before,” Szijjarto told Hungarian state media at a NATO summit in London. He alleged that 150,000 ethnic Hungarians living in the region have been “seriously violated” by Ukraine.
Language is a hot button issue in Ukraine, with nationalists claiming that minority languages undermine the use of Ukrainian in education, media, and state institutions. The Venice Commission, an EU rights body, previously urged Kiev to ensure that Ukraine allows the teaching of official languages of the bloc, including Hungarian and Romanian.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said in October that Ukraine was following the recommendations of the Commission and that minority rights were being preserved.
Moscow has repeatedly protested against Ukraine’s attempt to limit the use of minority languages, describing the initiative as discriminatory against the country’s large population of ethnic Russians.
In February, Ukraine’s parliament ratified amendments to the constitution which made NATO membership a key foreign policy objective. However, a number of hurdles still remain before its membership is likely to be seriously considered. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker predicted in 2016 that it would be 20-25 years before Ukraine would be able to join NATO and the EU.
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