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Transcarpathia’s Hungarians Receive Support As Hungary And Ukraine Enhance Relations

By Tamás Székely // 2016.11.28.

More than 300 ethnic Hungarian farmers in Transcarpathia (Southwest Ukraine) signed contracts on receiving funding worth almost 600 million forints (EUR 1.9m) in the town of Beregszász (Berehove) on Saturday as part of the Hungarian government’s Transcarpathian economic development programme.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Hungarian government commissioner István Grezsa said these are the first contracts on allocating funding to ethnic Hungarians in Transcarpathia from the funds of 32 billion forints of the economic development programme. Grezsa said it was symbolic that funding is allocated first to farmers in the region, as in the last one-third of Hungarian history it was the peasantry that represented Hungarians and their “inexhaustible economic and human resources”. Further funding contracts are expected to be signed in Transcarpathia before Christmas, the government commissioner said. This year, grants worth 2 billion forints will be allocated, to be followed by 5 billion forints in each of the following two years, and there is also a preferential credit limit of 20 billion forints available, Grezsa added. Marianna Berki, head of the Ede Egan Transcarpathian Economic Development Centre Foundation, told news agency MTI that funding has been allocated to 343 farmers in several categories, adding that a further 127 applications met the conditions of the tender but received no funding this time due to the limited amount of funds available. However, the Hungarian government pledged to disburse funding of a further 300 million forints before the end of this year for these applications.

Meanwhile a Hungary-Ukraine business forum was held in Debrecen in the presence of the two countries’ Primer Ministers. Flourishing Hungary-Ukraine political ties provide a strong tailwind for economic cooperation, Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán said. Hungary supports Ukraine’s strategic goals, including territorial sovereignty, joining the European Union in the medium term and, first of all, receiving visa-free status from the EU, Orbán added. Commenting on the free-trade agreement, Orbán noted that the Netherlands, “one of Europe’s richest countries”, had vetoed the EU-Ukraine free-trade pact when all other EU countries supported it, which he called “an impossible situation”. Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman told the event organised by the Hungarian National Trading House that his country faced its greatest challenge since gaining independence. The Ukrainian people have already expressed their wish to belong to Europe and the European Union, he added. Commenting on his Thursday meeting with Orbán, he said Ukraine would like to make visa applications free of charge because this would greatly simplify Ukrainians’ travel and work in the EU.

Supporting the ethnic Hungarian community in Ukraine has been among the top priorities of the Hungarian foreign policy in recent times. Few weeks ago 56 tonnes of humanitarian aid worth 32 million forints (EUR 105,000) has been delivered from Hungary to Transcarpathia and regions further to the east in Ukraine. The consignment to Transcarpathia contains food, school supplies, clothing and kitchenware, while aid to the other regions comprises hospital beds, medical equipment and vaccines. According to the latest census, around 150000 ethnic Hungarians live in Transcarpathia (“Kárpátalja” in Hungarian), a region which had belonged to Hungary before the First World War, to Czechoslovakia in the interwar period and to the Soviet Union following the Second World War, and which has become part of the independent Ukraine in 1991. In recent years, tens of thousands of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine have been naturalised.

via and MTI