The Orbán government should not block Ukraine’s NATO and EU integration

The conflict between Hungary and Ukraine is getting out of control. The Orbán Government’s retaliatory blocking of Ukraine’s NATO and EU integration have met unanimous criticism.

The dispute between Hungary and Ukraine began over the so-called Language Law. Ukraine’s Parliament passed legislation to promote the use of the Ukrainian language. Western Ukraine has a multi-ethnic population, among them ethnic Hungarians. The Polish and Romanian minorities have negotiated and received concessions; Hungary (with local lobbyists) has not been willing to compromise. Budapest gave an ultimatum and are linking the matter to Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration efforts. On April 24, Budapest vetoed a planned session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission for the third time (!) and also vetoed the invitation of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to the next NATO summit in July.

Hungary’s NATO partners are stunned. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Hungary and Ukraine to resolve the language dispute as soon as possible to ensure that the meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Commission will be held at the NATO summit in Brussels this July. Stoltenberg was exceedingly polite noting that “Hungary is a highly-valued ally” that “contributes to NATO collective defense,” but also adding that Ukraine is a “partner” of NATO and a “victim of Russian aggression.”

Poland is also fed up with Hungary’s behavior and suggested leaving Orbán out of the negotiations. Jacek Czaputowicz, Polish Foreign Minister said that it is necessary to conduct “less formal” meetings with Kyiv and Brussels. “We will probably find a solution, another, less formal form so that Ukrainians could take part in the discussion,” he stated.

According to Romania, the language row between Hungary and Ukraine is no justification for blocking the Ukraine-NATO dialogue. State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania Danut Neculaescu said that his government considers it necessary to continue the dialogue with Ukraine in a multilateral format, particularly within NATO, despite the unresolved dispute under Article 7 of the education law. (Read about Romania’s response here.)

Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration is a primary goal of the community of ethnic Hungarians living in the Ukraine. It will provide new opportunities for all the communities of Zacarpathia; yet the Orbán Government, represented by some ethnic Hungarian lobbyists, is working against the integration.

Hungarian American Coalition members in Ukraine. Second left is Mr. Brenzovics, Ms. Andrea Lauer (in the middle), Dr. Ildikó Orosz and Mr. Zsolt Szekeres.

Recently The Hungarian American Coalition, a US non-profit organization, honored Dr. Ildikó Orosz, leader of the Ferenc Rakoczi II Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute located in Beregovo, Ukraine. Before the event the Coalition issued a statement that Dr. Orosz would not be able to come to the US. She had to remain in Ukraine “because the Ministry of Education in Kiev scheduled an important accreditation meeting on exactly the days of her scheduled trip to Washington.”

The award was presented to another ethnic Hungarian official, Dr. Lászlo Brenzovics, president of the Cultural Alliance of Hungarians in Transcarpathia and a Member of the Ukrainian Parliament.

Mr. Brenzovics (with award) in Washington, on his left Edith Lauer and Governor George Pataki. They presented the award.

Mr. Brenzovics described the hardships faced by the Hungarian minority and claimed that new Language Law threatens “the language and citizenship rights of national minorities.” He thanked the Coalition for their lobbying activities and for organizing a series of meetings for him this week with U.S. officials in Washington, DC.

Mr. Brenzovics is a member of the Ukrainian Parliament under his Ukrainian name Brenzovych Vasyl Ivanovich. He received his mandate from the party called Petro Poroshenko Bloc, the same party which sponsored and signed the disputed Language Law.

Mr. Brenzovics is a member of the party Petro Poroshenko Bloc.

Political doubletalk is common in Eastern-Europe and politicians willingly “adjust” their rhetoric to satisfy audience expectations. Not surprisingly Mr. Brezovics, a close ally of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, delighted the pro-Orbán audience of the Hungarian American Coalition in Washington D.C.

Mr. László Brenzovics and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

I find it extremely distasteful that in a Hungarian language interview Mr. Brenzovics is trying to connect the language issue faced by the Hungarian minority in Ukraine to anti-Semitism while he has never raised his voice against the Orbán Government’s institutionalized anti-Semitism and Holocaust falsification. (Read here in Hungarian.)

Recently ethnic Hungarians demonstrated in Zacarpathia. Their concern was not the Language Law but the poor quality of roads. The fact is the majority of the ethnic Hungarian minority is bilingual (in many cases trilingual) and have little problem conducting official business the Ukrainian (or Russian) language. The Language Law effects only a small portion of the ethnic Hungarian population and a negotiated compromise is certainly possible.

The Orbán government’s posturing is contrary to the interests of the Ukrainian ethnic Hungarian community. It stirs up ethnic conflict in the region and openly supports Russian President Putin’s aspirations in Ukraine.

György Lázár

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  1. Mr. Lázár,

    You said: “The fact is the majority of the ethnic Hungarian minority is bilingual (in many cases trilingual) and have little problem conducting official business the Ukrainian (or Russian) language.”

    It’s interesting that you mention that, although everyone knows that most do speak Ukrainian as well, yet, the Ukrainian government is still pushing ahead with the language law. The Ukrainian government claims that many minorities including the Hungarian, cannot speak Ukrainian adequately or in a fairly basic manner or not at all.

    I have been following this development in Ukrainian English news sources and that’s what they claim.

    The Hungarian government is right to block this, while the Ukrainian minority in Hungary would not be forbidden to speak Ukrainian at any school level if they would have schools. Obviously, it is a very small minority in Hungary approx. 3000 who are dispersed within the country, hence why they do not have schools. If we look at the German minority which I belong to, one of the larger ethnic groups, we can learn/speak German from kindergarten all the way to University level (The Andrássy University Budapest – Andrássy Gyula German Speaking University Budapest/Andrássy Gyula Deutschsprachige Universität Budapest). Of course, we have to learn Hungarian as well. In Ukraine the problem is, they want to abolish Hungarian education after primary school. That is where the problem lies, NOT that, the Ukrainian government is asking ethnic Hungarians from having to learn Ukrainian.

    You can follow my twitter account on European minority issues:

  2. The Orbán government is engaged in the same kind of fishing expedition in the Ukraine, as the Antall government was engaged in Croatia, during the civil war in Yugoslavia, or Horthy, during WWII on the side of Hitler. Trained Hungarian white-supremacists like Mr. Almássy fought in the Ukraine on behalf of Russia, and Russia has dangled the carrot of returning to Hungary lands that belonged to her prior to WWI. This is what this case is all about. A desire to carve up the helpless carcass of Ukraine with Russia’s assistance. (Please see here:

    Instead of following Canada’s good example of helping to protect the Ukraine’s territorial integrity (Chrystia Freeland should be congratulated) , the Hungarian government has elected to serve as Putin’s Trojan Horse within the Western alliance, and for her own selfish reasons.

    The Hungarian American coalition should be ashamed of itself for supporting a strategy perfected by a regime (the Horthy regime, that declared war on the US). Mr. Lázár should be congratulated for focusing some attention on this disgusting game. The language laws of Ukraine are no different than the language laws of Quebec, which is a part of Canada. Why the double standards? Next thing, Mr. Pataki and his coalition friends will begin to lobby for the exclusion of Canada from NATO?

    • “Instead of following Canada’s good example”

      Perhaps it is Ukraine which should have followed Canada’s good example in regards to respect for its historical French minority. In fact, if they would do half as much in this regards, there would be no problems. They might have even avoided the civil war in the East, with the ethnic Russians, who obviously will be supported by mother Russia.

      You should be the one who should be ashamed of yourself for siding with the Ukro-Nazis, against the ethnic Hungarian minority. I guess using your and Mr. Lazar’s arguments, we should imprison women who dare to scratch the face of their rapists, while being attacked.

    • BTW, the way you turned the Canadian situation around, by focusing on Quebec’s law, instead of Canada’s bilingual law, which was meant to protect the French historical minority, is pure cynicism to say the least! Quebec’s law within the context of Ukraine, would in fact impose exclusive Hungarian language use within a small region in Western Ukraine, which ethnic Hungarians are not even dreaming of demanding. They are only demanding a fraction of the rights enjoyed by the French minority in Canada. Twisted and perverse!

  3. Trying to think very hard whether there is any difference between author’s reasoning here that in effect puts blame on the victims, and the logic that leads to the practice of putting women who are raped in prison, in parts of Muslim world. Honestly cannot think of any difference!

    Sure, he distorts, makes some arguments, attempts to link the fact that much of the Western world is with Ukraine, with trying to claim that Hungarians are wrong to stand up for basic minority rights, simply because much of the Western world is not with them. But they (Western World) were also with Ukraine when they corralled dozens of ethnic Russians into a building in Odessa and burned them to death. Says a lot more about the ethics and morals of Western World than it does about Hungary, which is on the right side of this issue, on moral grounds!

    The bearded ones who put women in prison for being raped often find social and political consensus as well! Are they any different from the Western World’s suport for the Ukro-Nazis and their brutal assault on minorities and their basic rights? Mr. Lazar needs to grow a beard and come out already! I suppose if some time in the near future some ethnic Hungarians will be coraled in a building & burned to death, he will blame Hungarians for it. How dare they stand up for their rights? How dare a rape victim scratch the face of the rapist?

  4. Romania a puppet chameleon will side with anyone to continue eating their …..Mamaliga…….
    Ukraine murdered its Jewish citizens throughout Karpathia from Bergszasz to Ulm – now they are getting a dose of reality…. surprise!!!

  5. Kick Hungary out of Nato and EU, same with all regimes that goes in an anti democratic direction. They are free to cozy back up with Russia.

  6. Avatar Bendeguz79 says:

    Hands off Ukraine and or any other country on Earth.

    This is all BS.

    Hungary demands that Ukraine be forced to teach Hungarian language in public schools in Ukraine. Have they lost their mind? Just in case they might have had any to lose?

    As long as everybody in Ukraine has their basic human tights guaranteed,or at least observed, may be Hungary should do observe and guarantee the rights of every one as well in Hungary.

    NO special privileges to any one, or any groups !

    • What Hungary is demanding is far less that rights the Swedish minority in Finland, the Basques, Catalans in Spain, the Germans in Italy, The French in Canada and so on and so on and so on enjoy. It is considered relatively normal, decent and common-sense in most civilized and even some less-civilized countries to respect the rights of historical minorities to preserve their heritage, culture and not impose that of the majority on them. The one that is out of his/her mind is most definitely you!

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