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Ukrainian President Pays Official Visit To Hungarian Counterpart

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko offered to settle Hungarian minority issues in an upcoming series of government level consultations

Minority issues regularly intrude bilateral talks between states of the CEE region, due to ts unique historical 'rearrangement' of borders, which has been said to have disregarded ethnic and cultural boundaries in the process. Also bound to be more than just a protocol visit, was the recent two-day official Budapest program of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who arrived to the Hungarian capital to return Hungarian State President Laszlo Solyom's visit to Kiev in July, 2008.

One of the most pressing issues, Solyom stated during talks, is the new system of high school graduation and university entrance exams introduced in the Ukraine, available only in the Ukrainian language for the Hungarian minority. "Such move could even put an end to all Hungarian-language education whatsoever," Solyom warned. He referred to the move as a setback for students of schools teaching only in Hungarian, adding that parents will also be swayed from teaching children their native tongue.

"For the long-term, Hungarian language universities could also lose their students, causing the Hungarian minority to disappear," he said. The Ukrainian President reacted by offering to settle the issue at a series of bilateral talks to be held between the two nation's Education Ministers, and reaffirmed that the Ukraine is ready to improve the situation of the Hungarian minority. The Hungarian minority of the Ukraine consists of 156,600 people, according to the Ukrainian census of 2001.

The minority is largely concentrated in the Zakarpattia Oblast (Subcarpathia), where ethnic Hungarians form the largest minority at 12.1% of the population (12.7% when native language is concerned). The Hungarian President also called for unimpended passage of Russian import natural gas to Hungary, to which his Ukranian counterpart replied it would "never hinder access" to Russian energy sources. Yushchenko unveiled two monuments during his two-day program, including Petofi Sandor square's (District five) monument to honor the great famine caused by Soviet collectivisation of farming in 1932-3, known to Ukrainians as the so-called 'Holodomor', where 10 million perished.

Also during the visit, a foreign affairs agreement was signed by deputy minister Vilmos Szabo and Ukraine's Minister of Foreign Affairs Volodymyr Khandohiy. Farm Minister Jozsef Graf and Ukrainian counterpart Yuriy Melnyk signed a cooperation agreement in agriculture and food industry. Yushchenko also layed a wreath at the Hungarian Martyrs' Memorial in Budapest Heroes' Square.

Thomas Anders

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