Hungary will continue to block NATO-Ukraine Council meetings until minority rights are restored in Ukraine, Péter Szijjártó, the foreign minister, told lawmakers on Tuesday.

In a speech in parliament, Szijjártó said Hungary's stance had been portrayed on the global stage as a Russia-friendly policy. This, he said, was "absurd," according to Hungary Today.

Szijjártó said that from afar it was perhaps understandable that the lives of 150,000 ethnic Hungarians were less important than geopolitical considerations. "But for us, this community is more important than any geopolitical matter," he said.

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The minister noted that on March 26, his Ukrainian counterpart, who has been asked by his president to work towards restoring bilateral relations, will visit Budapest.

"We're ready and we'll also make sensible suggestions," he added.

He said that in terms of Hungary's bilateral ties with neighboring countries, its relations with Ukraine were the most challenging. Whereas Hungary supports Ukraine on matters of territorial integrity and sovereignty, it must keep in mind the many violations in legislation of Hungarian national minority rights. The violations not only concern the Hungarian community's rights but minority rights more broadly, he added.

The aims of ensuring that every Ukrainian citizen speaks the state language properly while national minorities are able to speak in their mother tongue should not be mutually exclusive, Szijjártó said.

In Ukraine, Hungarian students study Ukrainian seven hours a week, and whereas this may be sufficient to learn the language, it falls short when it comes to speaking. The solution would be to improve the standard of Ukrainian language teaching, and Hungary is prepared help finance such an endeavour, he added.

As UNIAN reported earlier, relations between the two countries slid to a chill after the Ukrainian parliament in 2017 passed a new education law.

Hungary has since been blocking the meetings of Ukraine-NATO Commission, claiming alleged violation of rights of Hungarians living in Ukraine due to the provision of the law that determines that the language of command in educational facilities shall be the state language, which is Ukrainian.

Read alsoHungary puts forward new proposals regarding Ukraine's education law

According to the conclusion of the Venice Commission of Dec 8, 2017, Ukrainian authorities were recommended to balance the provision of the language article of Law "On Education".

On January 16, 2020, the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, passed bill No. 0901 on secondary education in the second reading and as a whole.

Three models of studying the Ukrainian language in schools are supposed.

The first model is provided for the indigenous peoples of Ukraine who do not live in the linguistic environment of their language and who do not have a state that would protect and develop this language. First of all, these are the Crimean Tatars. For them, the first model includes teaching in the language of the indigenous people from 1 to 11 (12) classes along with a thorough study of the Ukrainian language.

The second model is for schools with instruction in the language of national minorities whose languages belong to the EU languages. Depending on the language group and language environment, the use of this model may be different, but the basics are:

- elementary school: the use of the mother tongue along with the study of the official language;

- grade 5: at least 20% of the annual volume of study time should be taught in Ukrainian with a gradual increase in volume so that in grade 9 to reach at least 40% of subjects that are studied in the official language;

- high school: at least 60% of the annual amount of study time in these institutions should be instructed in the official language.

The third model will work for the rest of the national communities of Ukraine. It concerns national minorities whose language belongs to one of the Ukrainian language families, as well as those who live mainly in the environment of their own speech (Russian language). Primary schools there will also have a minority language along with the study of Ukrainian, and from grade 5 at least 80% of school hours will be instructed in the official language.

At the same time, Szijjártó says Hungary proposes not to increase the number of subjects taught in Ukrainian by the national minorities, which is provided for by the new law on secondary education.