Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

INTERNATIONAL WEEKLY № 17 (01.09.2018 – 15.09.2018)

The issuance of passports in Transcarpathia – Hungarian desire to support their ethnicity or the first steps to repeat the ‘Crimean scenario’?

On September 19, 2018, appeared a video in the media where shown how Hungarian consulate in Beregovo (Transcarpathian region) issues Hungarian passports for Ukrainian citizens under the oath and urges them not to tell the Ukrainian authorities about it. Such actions immediately provoked a further conflict in relations between Ukraine and Hungary: the head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, Pavlo Klimkin, said that the Hungarian consul will be denied accreditation and soon he will leave Ukraine, while Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó threatened to slow down Ukraine's European integration if Klimkin's threat will be realized. [1]

Today Hungary is a country with well-defined nationalist ideas of support and consolidation its ethnos. These are official reasons for the issuing of passports to ethnic Hungarians living outside of Hungary: in Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine (Transcarpathian region). However, if for the first two dual or multiple citizenship is permitted, in Ukraine it is contrary to law (paragraph 1 of Article 2 of the Law of Ukraine on Citizenship).[2] In Slovakia, the law explicitly prohibits obtaining a second passport and provides a clear ‘punishment’ procedure for this. In Ukraine a second passport is the reason for the loss of Ukrainian citizenship. The Law on Citizenship is based on the principle of non-recognition of dual citizenship. However, this procedure is not clearly written. In order to solve the problem, on September 21, 2018, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin proposed to prepare a new draft of Law on Citizenship in Ukraine, where this shortcoming would be solved.

The scenario of this situation reminds the initial stage of the Crimean scenario: granting Russian citizenship – gradual increasing anti-Ukrainian sentiment – a referendum – separation from Ukraine. However, since Hungary is still a member of the European Union, it is not expected in the coming years to take further radical steps.

Hungary's policy on the protection of indigenous Hungarians and Hungarians abroad has been taking place since, when Hungary simplified the procedure for obtaining citizenship for all. This was due to the Victor Orban Nationalist Party 'Fides' which came to power in 2010. This policy includes:the funding of various infrastructure projects, and financial support for minorities, and, of course, the issuing of the passports. De facto, issuing of the passports lasted from 2011. However, the video with oath appeared only at the end of 2018. Why? The reason for this is can be the elections in Ukraine to be held in 2019.

Hungary appeals to the fact that video footage from the Hungarian Consulate in Berehove is used in the Ukrainian election campaign, and anti-Hungarian sentiment is used to improve the rating. Nevertheless, there is another interpretation of the situation. Hungary is trying to undermine the situation in Ukraine, its integrity, hoping that ethnic Hungarians living in Transcarpathia will demand to be under the leadership of Budapest. Thus, during the recent years in the actions of Hungary towards Ukraine tracing territorial claims. At the same time, Ukraine, although it does not have the necessary economic base, but has significant military potential (as of 2018, the Armed Forces took the 8th place in Europe and ranked first among non-NATO countries). Hungary took 16th place.

The conflict with the issuing of passports is not the only ‘stone of collision’ in relations between the two countries. This idea, however, was promoted by the most nationalist Hungarian party 'Jobbyk' and was not an official position of the state. But in 2017, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Hungary to Ukraine Ern? Keskeny stated that there is nothing wrong with ‘autonomy’.

Also, the ruling party 'Fides' and Victor Orban belongs to the so-called 'friends of Russia'. This is evidenced by the appeals to the EU to discuss sanctions against the Russian Federation rather than to accept them automatically, and numerous talks on gas supplies bypassing Ukraine through the continuation of the ‘Turkish flow’. The Hungarian economy is dependent on Russian gas supply on 60-70%. In addition, among the European leaders Viktor Orban the one who most frequently visited Russia with friendly visits. It is very likely that Russia sponsored Hungary in order to undermine the situation in Transcarpathia and provoked it to radicalize steps towards Ukraine.

So, after analysing the facts, it is possible to draw parallels between the current actions of Hungary and the past actions of the Russian Federation that led to the ‘Crimean scenario’ and the situation in the Donbas. The situation with Hungary can be seen in 3 vectors:

1)      Hungary, claims to Transcarpathia but still has no insufficient power and is bound by membership in the European Union (prohibition of encroachments on another's territory and sovereignty).

2)      For Hungary is beneficial instability in Ukraine so Budapest try to undermine the situation before the elections. In this context most likely Hungary works according to the interests of its  'good friend' – Кremlin.

3)      Hungary actively supports the citizens of Hungarian roots abroad and tries to meet European values.

Although the first two variants look more plausible, the official position of Budapest appeals to the third. In any case, Ukraine should take clear steps to prevent the threat of separation of another part of its territory. The positive steps towards solving the problem include the initiative of Pavlo Klimkin to adopt the new Law on Citizenship. In addition, Ukraine can co-operate in solving this problem of dual citizenship with a country that also suffers from the nationalist policy of Hungary – Slovakia.