June 19, 2024

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Budapest will not support Ukraine’s membership in NATO unless it restores certain laws related to Hungarian minorities in the country.

“We do not support Ukraine in any issue in the international scene until it restores the laws that guarantee the rights of Hungarians,” he claimed during a speech to the Hungarian parliament on Sept. 25.

Orban said Ukraine wants “to transform (Hungarian schools) into Ukrainian schools,” referring to a law passed in 2017 that made Ukrainian the required language of instruction for children in state secondary education.

Budapest has repeatedly accused Kyiv of oppressing the rights of Hungarian minorities that live in the western regions of Ukraine, near the border between the two countries.

The 2001 Ukrainian census reported that around 150,000 Hungarians lived in Ukraine, though today this number is thought to be no higher than 80,000.

On Sept. 21, Ukraine’s parliament approved amendments to the law on national minorities to bring the rules and definitions in line with EU standards.

The law now allows for the publishing of advertisements in the language of a national minority within its community, as well as public and cultural events to be held in a minority language.

Updating the law is one of the requirements for the country’s accession to the European Union.

Read also: Parliament approves changes to national minorities law

Orban also addressed NATO enlargement, saying that there was no urgency to approve Sweden’s NATO bid. As a member of the alliance, Hungary has the power to veto the membership of new countries.

He also claimed that “we have seen that if Ukraine does not give up its intention to join NATO, it is only a matter of time before we have to reckon with another conflict.”

Brussels “wants us to join the war,” he alleged, whereas “Hungary is doing everything for peace.”

Hungary has a history of opposing international sanctions against Russia while blocking funding for Ukraine.

On Sept. 15, the Hungarian government implemented a ban on 24 Ukrainian agricultural products after the European Commission decided to end the Ukrainian grain embargo.

In response, Ukraine said it will sue Hungary, along with Poland and Slovakia, over the import ban.

Over the last six months, Orban has called Ukraine a “financially non-existent” country, claimed Ukraine will never win the war, and repeated a Russian propaganda narrative that the West is using Ukrainian troops as proxies.

In November 2022, Orban was photographed at a football match wearing a scarf depicting a historical map of Hungary that included Ukrainian territories, leading Ukraine to summon the Hungarian ambassador.

In January 2023, Ukraine again summoned the Hungarian ambassador after Orban compared Ukraine to Afghanistan, calling it a no man’s land.

Read also: Exclusive: New insights point to Hungary’s collaboration with Moscow on transfer of Ukrainian POWs

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