Ukraine Crisis and the Hungarian National Interests

With the situation in Ukraine escalating and the world getting more and more concerned about what has been going on, Hungary has some extra worries. As Ukraine’s neighboring country, its political leaders have to pay attention to the Hungarian minority living on Ukraine’s territory. According to Wikipedia there are approximately 156 thousand people of Hungarian origin living in the area of Transcarpathia. Observing the development of political situation in Ukraine, Hungary has been preparing for an influx of refugees. Apart from the complicated situation in Ukraine in general, it was the proposal of the new parliament of Ukraine to abolish the 2012 law “On State Language Policy” primarily in order to ban the minority languages and avoid separatist attempts of the (Russian) minorities, which became one of the main issues for Hungarian political leaders, articulated for example at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the Visegrad countries plus Romania, Bulgaria and Greece in Budapest on 24 February 2014.
Fidesz’s concerns
The Hungarian foreign minister, János Martonyi (Fidesz), during his visit in the city of Uzhorod (Ungvár) on the 1 March 2014 expressed his concern upon the situation of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, stating that “Transcarpathia’s troubled ethnic Hungarian minority has to face new dangers but Hungary will not leave any insult at them unanswered“. Such a declaration is consistent with the general Hungarian government’s attitude towards the Hungarian minorities abroad which can be defined in essence by Martonyi’s slogan, formulated 4 years ago: “Don’t hurt the Hungarians.”
On the other hand, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (Fidesz) got criticized for his reluctance to express the position of Hungary on the involvement from the side of Russia. Some of the critics assumed that the Prime Minister’s silence on that issue was to be ascribed to his relationship with the Russian president Vladimir Putin which became strengthened by the recent agreement between Hungary and Russia, concerning two nuclear reactors in Hungarian Paks. The opposition left alliance accused Orbán of “cowardly silence” and “sticking his head in the sand” and called upon him to stand up for the Hungarian interest and abandon the Paks agreement. Viktor Orbán finally made a substantive statement on the situation in Ukraine on 4 March. In his speech he emphasized that the priority of Hungary as a member state of the European Union is to find a way to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. He stressed that “in the whole Ukrainian crisis the most important consideration for Hungary is the safety of Hungarians in Hungary and in Subcarpathia.” Concerning the abolition of the language law he said that Hungary regarded it as illegitimate and unacceptable.
However, in a reaction to the opposition’s criticism and demands, the ministry of foreign affairs through its spokesman Róbert Zsigó expressed its regret that “certain Hungarian political parties” were abusing the crisis in Ukraine for their own political strategy in the election campaign. This stance got support also from the side of Fidesz.
… and Jobbik
The whole issue of Hungarian minority in Ukraine got most articulated by Jobbik. The radical nationalist party demanded “territorial autonomy” for the Ukrainian Hungarians and stressed that the government should act in the national interest of Hungary, rather than in the interest of NATO and the European Union.
Ruch Narodowy
In the framework of cooperation with the Polish nationalist party Ruch Narodowy (see www.ceeidentity.eu/node/147), both parties published a joint statement  on the situation in Ukraine, in which they call upon both Hungarian and Polish governments to “unite their efforts in applying their foreign and national political means to protect the rights of ethnic minorities living in Ukraine, with special regard for the Polish and Hungarian groups”. They stressed the obligation of the both nations to step up to protect their “brothers and sisters” in Ukraine, who represent a constituent part of the nations. They accused both Hungarian and Polish political representatives of sacrificing the enforcement of national interest on the altar of Euro federalism and point to the danger of “progressing popularization of symbols and persons associated with the tradition of Ukrainian ethnic chauvinism”.
With less than a month left before the general elections in Hungary it is naturally tempting for all the political parties to exploit all of the possible means to gain popular support, especially taking into account that the new law, enforced by the coalition government of Fidesz and Christian Democratic People’s Party in 2010, allows non-residents with Hungarian ancestry to gain Hungarian citizenship and participate in national elections.