Expert Dialogue: Ukrainian-Hungarian Relations. Webinar 1


The International Centre for Policy Studies, with the support of the International Visegrad Fund, launches the project “Ukraine and V4 countries: promoting better understanding”. ICPS experts together with partner organisations such as the Institute of International Relations and Trade(Hungary), the Institute for Economic and Social Reforms (Slovakia) and the Bronislaw Gemerek Foundation (Poland) discussed the issues of Ukrainian-Hungarian relations within the framework of the first webinar. Since 2017, relations between the two countries are in constant aggravation. The trigger for the conflict with Hungary was the adoption of the Law of Ukraine on Education which linguistic article caused a sharp critique of the Hungarian government and subsequently led to the blockade by the official Budapest of a number of initiatives in the Ukraine-NATO relations. Recently, the situation has escalated after the scandal with “Hungarian passports” for residents of Transcarpathia and mutual diplomatic threats between the official Kyiv and Budapest.

During the ICPS-initiated online webinar, the experts discussed the causes of misunderstandings between Ukraine and Hungary, the existing differences in the policy of good neighbourliness, and also highlighted the possible scenarios for the development of relations between Ukraine and Hungary in the future.

Currently, Ukraine’s relations with western neighbours are characterised by two important factors – asymmetry and hierarchy. The asymmetrical nature of relations is determined primarily by the fact that the role of the western neighbouring countries for Ukraine is much more important than the role of Ukraine for them. And as a result, the price paid by Ukraine for deteriorating relations with its neighbours is much higher than the one that potentially will have to pay to neighbouring countries for the crisis in its relations with Ukraine. The hierarchy factor is related to the place and role of the “Ukrainian question” in the internal or foreign policy agenda of the western neighbours. For any of the neighbouring countries, Ukrainian problems do not have priority, and soon become an additional component of other more important issues.

Meanwhile, the region of Eastern Europe was captured by regional processes associated with the growth of the nationalism influence. The chain reaction of constructing national identities leads to mutual hostility, historical and linguistic controversy, the struggle for the loyalty of national minorities and other similar processes. As a result, the potential for regional cooperation between countries is decreasing, and the contradictions are only rising.

Taking into account the possible undesirable consequences of existing trends, the main purpose of conducting expert discussions with ICPS is to seek common, effective mechanisms for the normalisation of relations and good-neighbourliness between Ukraine and the member-states of the Visegrad Group.

First of all, experts recommend the following steps to be taken towards the implementation of the Neighborhood Policy and the improvement of the relations between Ukraine and Hungary: creating a wider regional context and understanding that the above countries are part of one region, cooperation that could expand opportunities for both countries; an open and honest dialogue on the interests of the different positions of the countries on a given issue; refraining from anti-Ukrainian or anti-Hungarian rhetoric in the internal discourses of both countries; search for opportunities for joint projects in the field of energy, regional security, ecology, combating transnational threats.

Execution of such top-priority recommendations will help to reduce the number of crises occurring between Ukraine and Hungary, witnessed by which society continues to be in its second year in a row.

Source: ICPS