BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Ukraine has "stabbed Hungary in the back" with a new education law that "drastically" limits the rights of ethnic minorities to study in their mother tongue, Hungary's foreign minister said Monday.
There are about 150,000 ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that he was appealing to the United Nations, the European Union and other international bodies to try to prevent the law from taking effect.
"We consider the new education law approved by the Ukrainian parliament to be shameful and disgraceful," Szijjarto said. "This law — in a manner incompatible with European values and laws — drastically limits the access of minorities, including the Hungarian community, to education in the mother tongue."
Szijjarto added that the new rules make it "practically impossible" for ethnic minorities to study in their own language beyond fourth grade.
The U.S. Embassy in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, welcomed the new law, which sets funding for education at a minimum of 7 percent of gross domestic product and will introduce a 12-year education system. Ukraine's opposition parties voted against the bill.
Poland and Romania, which also have sizable minorities in Ukraine, however, have also expressed their qualms about the legislation.
Romania's foreign ministry said last week it had "noted with concern" the new law.
"The need to conform to international norms regarding promoting and protecting the rights of people who belong to the national Romanian minority in Ukraine has been continually pointed out by Romania in its dialogue with Ukraine," the ministry said, adding that a senior official would visit Ukraine this week to discuss issues regarding the Romanian minority. There are an estimated 400,000 Romanian speakers in Ukraine, of which 250,000 declare themselves to be Moldovan and 150,000 Romanian.
Poland's foreign ministry said it would "closely monitor" the bill's implementation and "take all necessary measures to ensure that Polish people in Ukraine have access to Polish language education." There are around 150,000 ethnic Poles in Ukraine.
Alison Mutler in Bucharest and Vanessa Gera in Brussels contributed to this report.