What demands Hungary presented to Ukraine and whether it is realistic to fulfil them

Tuesday, 30 January 2024

It looks like Budapest is laying the basement to reset relations with Ukraine. The reason is no secret: Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán needs to demonstrate a warming on the Ukrainian front for EU negotiations.

Unfortunately, this reconciliation is unlikely to be long-lasting. Budapest conspicuously continues its anti-Ukrainian propaganda. There is at least one condition from Budapest that, if desired, will turn into a problem. But for now, the warming in relations is extremely necessary.

Read more in the article by Sergiy Sydorenko, European Pravda's editor – Theater of one minister: On what terms did Hungary agree to a truce with Ukraine.

The visit of the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter Szijjártó, to Uzhhorod on 29 January started in a very unusual manner. He visited the Uzhhorod Cemetery accompanied by his Ukrainian counterparts, Dmytro Kuleba and Andrii Yermak, before the negotiations. Szijjártó paid tribute to fallen Ukrainian defenders who fought against the Russian invasion.

Such a significant tribute to those who killed Russians is a notable step from Szijjártó, who is the main communicator of Hungary in dialogue with the Russian Federation.

Another symbol of his visit was the demonstrative public desire to achieve results at this meeting. Peter Szijjártó spent over six hours negotiating with the Ukrainian delegation for this, although such lengthy talks are not his style.

Moreover, both before, during, and after the visit, the Hungarian minister, his social media, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs press service reiterated: Hungary has only one demand from Ukraine. Allegedly, the controversies will be resolved by solving it. This demand, however, has several components — acceptable and unacceptable.

"We ask to return to Hungary the rights that our minority had until 2015. We ask for nothing more," he stated.

He repeated it several times during the visit to Uzhhorod, in both closed and open parts. But there is a question: what does this mean in fact?

The vast majority of Hungary's "demands" are already fulfiled by Ukraine.

The exact list of the Hungarian "requests" is not currently disclosed, but Szijjártó named the key points during the press conference. According to him, it is about the "return" of the status of a national school (with education in the Hungarian language); the opportunity to take exams in Hungarian; the possibility of receiving higher education in Hungarian; the right to use Hungarian in the field of culture; and the use of Hungarian in "public life."

There was also another point that did not sound in the sign language at the press conference, but Szijjártó emphasised it in his Facebook post: the use of Hungarian in local self-government.

There is only one point that potentially could cause problems in Hungary's demands. It comes from the "Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law," guaranteed disproportionately high rights to minority languages.

Attention should be paid to the optimism about the deadlines for resolving these issues. If Kyiv and Budapest agreed to reach a common understanding within 10 days, it means that both sides do not consider these 11 "requests," whether they are deemed complicated or not.

Once there is agreement at the working level, discussions about a leaders' meeting, between Zelenskyy and Orbán, who can then solemnly announce the resolution of the issues. Or at least a significant part of them.

It is crucial to emphasise that Hungary's change in approach did not come as a surprise. EuroPravda has reported that Viktor Orbán found himself under serious pressure from his EU friends to reconsider his hostile attitude towards Ukraine.

It is essential to be realistic though: a complete reconciliation with Orbán and his team is not on the agenda.

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