Much ado about nothing? Hungary is blocking NATO-Ukraine meetings but has been since 2017

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, arrives for joint statements with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in Bucharest, Romania, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, a day before the start of the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers. (AP Photo/Alexandru Dobre)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

There have been hysterical media reports that Hungary is blocking Ukraine from meeting with NATO, in another allusion that Hungary is working against Ukraine and attempting to undermine its fight against Russia. However, the reality is that Hungary has been blocking Ukraine from such meetings since 2017, and it has to do with Ukraine’s continued repression of its Hungarian minority.

As NATO foreign ministers arrived to the Romanian capital for a two-day summit, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó confirmed his country’s position that it has been blocking Ukraine’s participation in NATO events since 2017.

“Arrived at the NATO Council of Foreign Ministers. Several people tried to ask (me) about the sensationalist article in the Financial Times. They say that we prevented the formal meeting of the NATO Ukraine Committee from taking place,” Szijjártó wrote in a Facebook post.

“There is nothing new or surprising in our position. We made it clear years ago that until Ukraine gives back the rights of the Hungarians in Transcarpathia, we will not agree to the convening of this body,” he wrote.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) and Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó in Bucharest on November 28. (Facebook)

Despite ongoing repression of Hungarians living in Ukraine, Szijjártó points out that Hungary has refrained from lobbying Ukraine to respect Hungarian’s minority rights since the war broke out.

“We have not raised this issue since the outbreak of the war, and we have no intention of doing so now. We hope that peace will come as soon as possible, and then this issue can be discussed again,” he said.

The issue of minority rights in Ukraine has been ongoing for years. Hungarians in the country are restricted from speaking their language in official government settings or in schools. In addition, Ukrainian nationalists have in the past targeted Hungarians, including with arson attacks.

Ukraine adopted in 2017 a new education law making Ukrainian the sole teaching language; while mainly aimed at the Russia minority, it also affects others, such as the 120,000-strong Hungarian minority in the Transcarpathia region neighboring Hungary.

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