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Orban responds to Hungarians in Ukraine, offers substitute to EU membership

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 12, 2023 8:03 PM 2 min read
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban gives his speech in Hungexpo Fair and Exhibition Centre of Budapest on Nov. 18, 2023. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images)
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Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban responded on Dec. 12 to an appeal from the Hungarian community in Ukraine, asking him to support EU membership talks with Kyiv.

The letter from Hungarians in Ukraine came shortly before the EU talks on Dec. 14-15, during which Hungary threatens to block the launch of Ukraine's accession negotiations.

Budapest has previously said that alleged "discrimination" against the Hungarian community is one of the obstacles on Kyiv's path toward the EU.

In his letter, Orban vowed that Hungary "will do everything in its power to protect the rights of the Hungarian community in Ukraine," the Hungarian news portal reported.

Hungary's leader reiterated his earlier statements that the European Commission did not properly prepare for Ukraine's accession, and the launch of the talks is not suitable at the moment.

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"Therefore, we will propose that instead of legally complicated membership, the European Union aims at a strategic partnership with Ukraine," Orban wrote.

Hungarians in Ukraine are thought to number around 80,000, most of whom live in the western oblast of Zakarpattia.

Budapest claimed that Ukraine's 2017 language law amendments, which require at least 70% of education above fifth grade to be conducted in Ukrainian, are discriminatory against the Hungarian minority.

Kyiv has said that it does not intend to crack down on its minorities, only to ensure that every Ukrainian citizen has sufficient knowledge of Ukraine's official language.

Ukraine has made two updates to the law based on recommendations of the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who recently met his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto, said that despite reservations, Budapest does not oppose Ukraine's EU membership "in principle."

Following the meeting, Szijjarto commented that Hungary's position on Ukraine's EU accession remains unchanged.

Media: Hungarians in Ukraine ask Orban to support launch of Ukraine’s EU accession talks
The leaders of the Hungarian community in Ukraine have written a letter, appealing to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban not to block the launch of Ukraine’s EU accession talks during the upcoming European Council summit, Ukrainska Pravda reported on Dec. 11.

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