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19 October, 2018

Hungary escalating tensions with Ukraine

Hungarian officials get very nervous when accused of coordinating their moves with Moscow

After the shocking video was released revealing a scene where Ukrainians in the Hungarian Consulate in Zakarpattia's Berehove were issued Hungarian passports and instructed to conceal the fact before the Ukrainian authorities, Peter Szijjarto, Hungary's top diplomat, chose a tactic of escalating the confrontation. Although this is hardly his own initiative as the aggravation of relations with Ukraine is the policy of the entire current political class in Hungary. This is evidenced by a recent visit of a Hungarian delegation to Transcarpathian Region, which included Secretary of State for National Policy Arpad Janos Potapi, the head of the Transcarpathian department at the State Secretariat of Hungary, Katalin Ljubka, the head of the office of state secretary Z. Kadar, as well as Hungary's general consuls in Uzhhorod - Jozsef Buhajla - and in Berehove - Matias Siladi. During their visit to Ukraine, they held confidential talks on the current situation with the administration of the Hungarian Culture Society of Transcarpathian Region and the Democratic Union of Hungarians of Ukraine. They said Budapest was investigating the leak of a scandalous video from the consulate in Berehove, showing Transcarpathian residents being issued Hungarian passports and asked to keep it secret. Hungarian special services are running thorough checks on those who apply for fast-tracked citizenship.

In the meantime, Budapest has temporarily suspended citizenship ceremonies in Transcarpathian Region. From now on they will be held at local self-government offices in Hungary's Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County bordering with Ukraine, Pro-Hungarian organizations, in turn, said that because of extended checks of Ukrainian Hungarians for dual citizenship at the border, they and the consulates reopened legal aid centers. Interestingly enough, a similar center used to operate back in 2015 when its lawyers helped Transcarpathian Hungarians dodge mobilization to the Ukrainian army. Further coordination of international efforts on countering the language clauses of the Ukrainian education law was also discussed during the delegation's visit. The participants in the meeting agreed that at international events they will insist that the law "limits" the rights of minorities. That's exactly what Ukrainian MP Laszlo Brenzovych claimed on October 11 in Brussels at a meeting with European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Tibor Navracsics and President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani. "Hungarians' position has never been so bad in the history of independent Ukraine," Brenzovych said. High-ranking Hungarian official Potapi said about Budapest's intention to pass an address to the European Commission and the EU Council, which would accuse Kyiv of "violating" its obligations under the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.

As for Budapest financing the programmes of the Hungarian national minority in Transcarpathian Region, this September alone, the Hungarian Culture Society of Transcarpathian Region allocated 570 million forints (about $2 mln) through the branches of OTP Bank to the Hungarian-speaking population in assistance to children who study in Hungarian-speaking schools and kindergartens in the region. This amount was allocated by the Hungarian government through the Bethlen Gabor Fund. Ukraine's plans to station a standing military contingent in the town of Berehove was also discussed. According to the representative of the Democratic Union of Hungarians of Ukraine, Laszlo Zubanich, this "will upset the ethnic balance" that has formed in Berehove and across the area over the past decades. Moreover, this step of the Ukrainian authorities allegedly contradicts the agreement on cooperation between the Hungarian Republic and the former Ukrainian SSR. Meanwhile, Hungarian officials get very nervous when accused of coordinating their moves with Moscow, which for four years has been trying to change the government in Ukraine first by military means, then by terrorism and sabotage, and now also with political methods. Because Russia is "toxic", Budapest is trying to avoid a "Hungary-Russia" connection because it calls into question the independence of the Hungarian authorities.


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