‘Financial aid top priority in Ukrainian consolidation’

Budapest, Feb 24: At least seven foreign ministers from central and southeast Europe underlined the need for financial assistance to Ukraine during a meet here Monday.

The ministers from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, in an extended meeting of the Central European Visegrad Group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) noted that together they represent 100 million people, Xinhua reported.

They welcomed the election of a new speaker of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) and the release from prison of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko while acknowledging that the situation was still volatile.

The ministers also said that the European Union was urgently putting together a financial aid package that was certain to be sizable and would be coordinated with the new Ukrainian government.

They underlined the need for an inclusive government, warning that a decision taken by the new Rada to make Ukrainian the country’s sole official language was a license for trouble.

Addressing a news conference after the meeting, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi and Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak said the move would irritate the Russian minority and could push it towards actions that no one wants to see.

Ukraine was home to Romanian, Bulgarian, Polish, and Hungarian minorities and depriving them of their languages could lead to a loss of identity, they noted.

Energy was another issue on the table.

After declaring their readiness to resume the reverse flow of natural gas to Ukraine, the ministers called for measures to assure a secure energy supply to their countries at competitive prices.