How Is Hungary Resisting Ukraine's Eurointegration

Tuesday, 28 November 2023

Hungary experienced a complex path to the full EU membership, overcoming the consequences of a long-standing totalitarian regime.

Apparently, "forgetting" its own Eurointegration experience, the Hungarian government has turned the process of Ukraine's EU accession into political blackmail, seeking to gain as many financial preferences as possible.

Read more in the analytical article by Dmytro Bashtovyо from Civil Network OPORA – Nothing Personal, Just Money: How and Why Hungary Blocks Ukraine's Eurointegration.

Hungary was a classic Soviet satellite with Marxist-Leninist ideology until 1989. Only when the communist regime collapsed in the fall of 1989, the former system was dismantled, marking the launch of multiparty democracy and a free-market economy.

Hungary became a full member of the European Union in 2004, spending 14 years for that.

According to the EU report, Hungary back then was no more prepared for EU accession than Ukraine is now. This fact that Budapest pretends to have "forgotten."

Who has shaped modern Hungary into what it is today? What preferences does the government want to obtain through blackmail?

The position of Hungary's Prime Minister since 2010 has been held by the leader of the party Fidesz, Viktor Orbán, who has friendly relations with the Russian president and is currently the only EU leader supporting contacts with Putin, even holding personal meetings with him.

Hungary has gradually moved towards authoritarianism during his time in office. The European Parliament says that Hungary has lost signs of democracy, while Orbán himself calls his political system an "illiberal democracy."

Hungary is now indeed outside the community of democracies.

Ultimately, the EU has blocked a significant amount (about 7.5 billion euros) of regional aid to Hungary due to issues with the rule of law and human rights protection. The EU is withholding 22 billion euros in payments to Hungary for the same reason from the Cohesion Fund. For Hungary, such a decision would be painful, as the country is the largest beneficiary of the EU budget as a percentage of gross national income.

Orbán has found additional leverage for trade with the EU by blocking certain EU initiatives aimed at supporting Ukraine.

For instance, Budapest impedes the increase of the EU's common budget by 66 billion euros, part of which is intended for financial support to Kyiv, primarily referring to the 50 billion euro Ukraine Facility programme for the recovery, reconstruction, and modernisation of the country over the next four years.

Orbán's government has also long delayed funding for new military aid to Ukraine, blocking a funding increase from the European Peace Fund.

Hungary, which moved from its communist past to democratic transformations, has regressed to autocracy during Viktor Orbán's rule, where the rule of law is disregarded. This value is crucial in the Copenhagen criteria by which countries can qualify for European Union membership.

Hungary has become a platform for Russia's network of allies, with Viktor Orbán promoting the Kremlin's position in the European Union. Comparisons of Hungary's EU membership with Soviet occupation and meetings with Putin make Orbán even more isolated.

The EU itself have long been voiced doubts about Hungary's continued trustworthiness as an ally and partner.

European officials explicitly remind that Hungary is not obliged to remain an EU member.

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