Hungary sets terms to unblock Ukraine-NATO talks

Hungary is ready to improve economic relations with Ukraine and unblock NATO membership talks as soon as the rights of ethnic Hungarians living in Ukraine’s Zakarpattia region to study in their native language are restored.

Speaking in a press conference in western Ukraine, Hungary’s foreign minister Péter Szijjártó said that he hoped to work together with Ukraine’s new government once it is formed after the upcoming snap parliamentary elections on July 21.

The foreign minister said that Hungary already had a plan for improving economic relations and had allocated 50 million euros for projects in Ukraine, particularly infrastructure development. “Once the Ukrainian authorities return the rights of the Hungarian community [in the Zakarpattia region] and stop provocations against them, there will be an opportunity for economic cooperation serving the interests of both countries,” he said on July 16.

Mr Szijjártó also said that Hungary had recently provided 13.5 billion forints (around 41.3 million euros) of funding for small and medium enterprises in western Ukraine, funding which will be continued.

Hungary decided to block Ukraine’s cooperation with NATO after the Ukrainian parliament voted to adopt a new language law in April. While the law was aimed at ensuring the position of the Ukrainian language as the country’s official language, it essentially bans the use of ethnic languages in the public sphere, including education.

Prior to his election, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky promised to review the law “to ensure the constitutional rights of minorities.”

The number of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine, most of whom live in the Zakarpattia region, is estimated at 140,000.