Dr. László Brenzovics of Ukraine Concludes Visit to Washington, D.C.

Washington, DC – Dr. László Brenzovics, the sole ethnic Hungarian deputy in the Parliament of Ukraine, met with U.S. officials, policymakers and academic leaders in Washington, D.C. last week, on a visit hosted by the Hungarian American Coalition. 

Dr. Brenzovics, who is President of the Cultural Alliance of Hungarians in Transcarpathia, provided first-hand information on recent legislative measures which violate the rights of the Hungarian national minority in Ukraine – in particular, the recently passed education law, which severely undercuts native-language instruction.

Laszlo Brenzovics
Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and Dr. László Brenzovics at the
U.S. Capitol on April 26, 2018 in Washington, DC

On Wednesday April 25, Dr. Brenzovics met with State Department officials including Matthew Palmer, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary; Jorgan K. Andrews, Director, Office of Eastern European and Eurasian Affairs; Kimberly D. Zapfel, Ukraine Desk Officer; Ivan Weinstein, Hungary Desk Officer, and Sarah Becker, Poland Desk Officer.

On Thursday, April 26, Dr. Brenzovics took part in meetings with Congressman Dennis A. Ross; Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur; and Congressman Andy Harris. The next day, Dr. Brenzovics met separately with Ted Daniels, Legislative Director for Congressman Harris.

All three of the Representatives are members of the Congressional Hungarian American Caucus; Reps. Kaptur and Harris are also members of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus.

Also on Thursday, Dr. Brenzovics spoke at a roundtable at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). The event was hosted by Ambassador András Simonyi, Managing Director of the Center, and attended by fellows and researchers of the SAIS Center for Transatlantic Relations and the Austrian Marshall Fund.

Dr. Brenzovics’s schedule included a visit to Marymount University in Virginia, where he met with Mr. Stefan Fedor of the Board of Trustees and Mr. Joseph Foster, Vice President for Advancement. Dr. Brenzovics, who also heads a non-profit foundation to support the Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute in Beregovo, Ukraine, was introduced to the programs and functioning of a U.S. college.

On April 24, a reception was hosted by the Hungarian Embassy with the participation of State Department officials, including Matthew Palmer, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary, Jennifer Bachus, Director, Office of Central European Affairs, Ivan Weinstein, Hungary Desk Officer, Lane Bahl, Advisor, Office of Ambassador Kurt Volker, U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, Congressional staff, representatives of think-tanks and leaders of the Hungarian American community.

On April 25, Dr. Brenzovics attended the Hungarian American Coalition’s annual Gala Dinner, accepting the Coalition’s award on behalf of the Rakoczi Ferenc II Trancarpathian Hungarian Institute.

At all meetings, Dr. Brenzovics stressed that the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, with respect to the controversial education law, is ready to negotiate a common-sense and constitutional solution which will best serve the interests of the schoolchildren. No one disputes importance of fluency in Ukrainian for all citizens, which is already a requirement for a high school diploma. However, the new education law in its current form would impose Ukrainian-language instruction without the necessary conditions (e.g. trained language teachers, textbooks and methodologies for Ukrainian as a second language). 

Dr. Brenzovics also called attention to an increase in anti-Hungarian propaganda. Ukrainian public figures publish hostile and accusatory statements that stigmatize the Hungarian minority and other ethnic groups and embolden extremist Ukrainian nationalists, whose anti-Hungarian attacks – including acts of vandalism and a terrorist attack against the Hungarian Cultural Alliance headquarters earlier this year – have sharply increased in recent years. 

“The economic crisis and the Ukrainian–Russian conflict feed social tensions, and Ukrainian politicians and the media exploit these tensions to stigmatize the Hungarian minority,” Dr. Brenzovics stated. “Their purpose is, in the short run, to limit minority rights to use their native language, and in the long run to assimilate them.” 

The Hungarian minority in Ukraine, numbering 150,000, lives in the multi-ethnic region of Transcarpathia, near the Hungarian border. Ukraine is bound by international commitments to protect national minority rights, including native-language education at all levels– the key to preserving the community’s identity and its very future in the region.

In fact, protection of minority rights and other pillars of international law would encourage Ukraine’s integration into Western international institutions and alliances – a goal fervently shared by the Hungarian national minority.

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