Ukraine’s Continued Discrimination of National Minorities and the Sanction of Dual Citizenship a Worrying Sign of the Degradation of Minority Rights and European Values

The National Alliance of Hungarians in Canada (NAHC) is highly concerned with the degradation of Hungarian and other national minority rights in Ukraine. An untenable situation has developed in Ukraine that jeopardizes individual and minority rights as a result of aggressive and discriminatory action taken by the Ukrainian government against its own citizens. The NAHC calls on the European Union, NATO, the OECD and other organizations to take note of a true and genuine backsliding of democratic and human rights in Ukraine and to take immediate action to defend the rights of all national minorities.

The NAHC has voiced its concern before when Ukraine enacted an Education Law last year which targeted Hungarian and other national minorities by restricting their use and access to education in their native or ethnic language. This move by Ukraine stands in direct violation of European values and should be considered in light of Ukraine’s desire to join the EU and other western alliances. Debate over the new Education Law, and amendments to this restrictive Act, have only exacerbated the desire of the Ukrainian government to make the Education Law even more restrictive than it already is. For example, the current ratio of ethnic speakers of ten percent or higher in a given region are permitted to have access to education in their ethnic language. Talk of raising this requirement to thirty-three percent would be a death knell to the vibrant Hungarian community in Transcarpathia who strive to protect their language, culture, and traditions against oppressive schemes like this.

Most recently, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has instructed Parliament to consider stripping citizenship from those who carry dual citizenship and vote in elections outside the Ukraine. This again specifically targets Hungarians who, after almost a century of discrimination and oppression, have acquired Hungarian citizenship in order to maintain their link to Hungary, their families, and their ethnic kin. The NAHC calls on the international community to increase pressure on the Ukrainian government to bring their laws and their practices in line with European and international obligations.

More worrying has been the military buildup in Transcarpathia. Ukraine has decided to deploy 800-1000 military personnel to within ten kilometres of the Hungarian border. The redeployment of military to an old base near Beregovo (Beregszász) is an open and blatant aggression toward Hungary and the Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia. Hungarians pose no national threat to Ukraine or its territorial integrity. To suggest otherwise is representative of a paranoid state targeting its own citizens. The NAHC finds this military move alarming, and hopes for the easement of the tension at Beregovo (Beregszász).

It is tragic that in Twenty-First Century Europe we are faced with the obligation of bringing awareness to continued acts of discrimination and injustice perpetrated toward proud, peaceful, law abiding national minorities. The Ukraine can have a proud place in Europe if it respects the rights of its own people. The NAHC and other organizations will support, protect, and advocate for Hungarian and all ethnic minorities in Europe.