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Hungary, Ukraine Diplomatic Tension: Kyiv Accuses Budapest of Interfering in Local Elections

Péter Cseresnyés 2020.10.27.

Diplomatic tensions between Hungary and Ukraine have flared up yet again in the past days, after Kyiv accused the Orbán government of interfering in the Ukrainian local elections. Ukraine decided to hand over a letter of protest to Hungary’s ambassador and as a punishment, also banned the entry of two Hungarian officials. Hungary’s Foreign Minister rendered Ukraine’s move “pathetic and nonsense,” reminding Kyiv that it needs Hungary’s support to be able to join the EU and NATO.

In a statement on Sunday, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry lambasted the Hungarian government for “directly interfering in the Ukrainian local elections,” and therefore promised a “tough response.”

The ministry reacted to Szijjártó’s earlier call on ethnic Hungarians in Transcarpathia to vote for ethnic Hungarian candidates in the country’s local elections held Sunday.

Potápi: Strong Representation of Interest Guarantee for Survival of Ethnic Hungarians in Transcarpathia
Potápi: Strong Representation of Interest Guarantee for Survival of Ethnic Hungarians in Transcarpathia

Strong interest representation is a guarantee of the survival of ethnic Hungarians in Transcarpathia, and support from the mother country helps all Ukrainian citizens in the region regardless of ethnicity, the state secretary for Hungarian communities abroad said on Thursday. Over the past ten years, ethnic nationality rights suffered a gradual decline in Transcarpathia, Árpád […]Continue reading

The “tough response” arrived shortly, as on Monday Ukraine’s foreign ministry summoned István Íjgyártó, Hungary’s ambassador to the country to ask him why Budapest had urged ethnic Hungarians to support Hungarian candidates.

Kyiv also handed over a letter of protest to the diplomat for “Hungary’s interference in Ukraine’s domestic affairs” in the municipal elections.

Ukraine bans entry of Hungarian officials

Furthermore, two high-ranking Hungarian politicians have been banned from entering Ukraine, Dmitro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister announced later in the day.

The foreign minister revealed, without mentioning any names, that one of them is a state secretary of Hungary’s Prime Minister’s Office. Kuleba added that an entry ban on other Hungarian citizens who had actively “interfered” in Ukraine’s domestic affairs during the elections had also been initiated.

Szijjártó: Hungary, Ukraine Committed to Settling Disputes
Szijjártó: Hungary, Ukraine Committed to Settling Disputes

Both Hungary and Ukraine are committed to settling their disputes in a reassuring way, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Facebook on Friday after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Budapest. There are still some significant issues in bilateral relations where the sides have differing opinions, such as the education and language rights […]Continue reading

According to news site Karpatalja.ma, the politicians denied entry are presumably either foreign ministry state secretary Levente Magyar, and/or state secretary for national policy Árpád Potápi. (It wouldn’t be the first time that Potápi was banned from entering Ukraine).

Dimitri Kuleba also noted that the root cause of the current diplomatic tension is not simply a result of Szijjártó’s post on social media but “Hungarian politics in general.”

FM Szijjártó calls Ukraine’s move pathetic

In his response, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó slammed the Ukrainian foreign ministry’s summoning of Hungary’s ambassador to Kyiv, calling the move “nonsensical.”

In a video later posted on Facebook, Szijjártó insisted that Ukraine’s interpretation of “interference” was not clear, whether it referred to “the Hungarian government’s sending 50 ventilators to Ukraine…Hungary being the only country allowing Ukrainian nationals transit to Western Europe, or the Hungarian central budget financing the revitalization of one of the most polluted rivers in Ukraine.” (The Hungarian government even let Transcarpathians living in Hungary to travel to Ukraine and cast their votes without being forced to go to quarantine when they returned).

Ukraine Refuses Entry of Hungarian State Secretary, Labeled as 'Threat to Epidemiological Situation'
Ukraine Refuses Entry of Hungarian State Secretary, Labeled as 'Threat to Epidemiological Situation'

The Hungarian government’s State Secretary for National Policy was refused entry to Ukraine on Thursday. Árpád Potápi was scheduled to arrive for the opening ceremony of a renovated school in Ungvár (Uzhhorod). Potápi would have represented the Hungarian state that financed the refurbishment works. He was eventually replaced by consul general László Kuti, who noted […]Continue reading

Ukraine’s move is “pathetic and nonsense,” while it sends the message that the country has “given up its endeavors towards European and Euro-Atlantic integration, and waived its need for Hungary’s support in the process,” Szijjártó said, adding that aspirants for integration needed unanimous member support both in the EU and in NATO.

The Hungarian government continues to be ready to build good neighborly relations and conduct a dialogue, “but the recent period has demonstrated that this readiness is unilateral,” Szijjártó said.

Lastly, the minister assured Transcarpathian Hungarians of his government’s full support and congratulated ethnic Hungarian party KMKSZ on its “historic, landslide” victory in Ukraine’s recent municipal elections. (The party has made it to the county council and has won seven mayoral seats).

Bilateral relations between Hungary and Ukraine have begun to drastically deteriorate after Kyiv accepted laws on language use and education that discriminate against national minorities and refused to make changes to them despite severe international criticism. In response, Hungary has been blocking the country’s NATO accession ever since.

Featured photo by Mátyás Borsos/KKM/MTI