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Oct 22, 2019 - Zoltán Kovács

Fake News: Prime Minister Orbán did not “sour” Trump on Ukraine

Prime Minister Orbán and Hungary have been swept up in the latest storm over Ukraine, supposedly, as the Washington Post reported, because our prime minister “helped sour Trump on Ukraine.”

Prime Minister Orbán and Hungary have been swept up in the latest storm over Ukraine, supposedly, as the Washington Post reported, because our prime minister “helped sour Trump on Ukraine.”

Behold! this is how the fake news factory works. Exploiting a poorly sourced news item to advance a biased narrative, ignoring facts to build on their anti-Hungary, anti-Orbán editorial stance. The article relies on “unnamed U.S. officials” who are reportedly relying on the closed-door testimony of a career State Department official who “cited the influence” that Orbán had on President Trump. It’s preposterous.

Let’s get a few things straight about the Orbán Government’s policy toward Ukraine:

The previous administration of Petro Poroshenko pursued what we could only describe as anti-Hungarian policies. In the final months of the Poroshenko presidency, we grew increasingly concerned for the well-being of the ethnic Hungarian community in Transcarpathia, western Ukraine. We received troubling reports about serious irregularities vis-à-vis Hungarian voters and candidates in the last elections. Diplomatic relations hit a low point over a controversial citizenship law, later withdrawn, that would have seriously adversely affected the Hungarian community. Ukraine’s education law, passed in April of this year, put a serious strain on our relationship because it directly discriminates against the Hungarian minority by limiting the community’s right to education in its mother tongue.

As I explained in a previous blog post, “Hungary and Ukraine: Here are 5 facts you should know,” with that legislation Ukraine clearly violates international agreements. The act, as I wrote, “violates Article 34 of the Copenhagen Agreement, Article 4.3 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National Minorities, and the No. 1201 proposal of the European Council, to which Ukraine undertook to adhere. Furthermore, the legislation goes against Article 8 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and Article 13 and 14 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.”

That was true in April when they passed it, and it’s still a grave problem today.

But the election of President Volodimyr Zelensky in May has given us reason to be hopeful that the new leadership will take a different approach.

“Dialogue is easier with the new Ukrainian leadership than with the previous,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó following a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Foreign Minister Vadim Prisztajkó in September.

“Prisztajko showed an openness,” said Minister Szijjártó, “to raising any kind of questions in the bilateral relationship and clearly expressed a flexibility in the discussion of these questions.”

A strong, stable and democratic Ukraine is in Hungary’s interest because it would not only have a positive impact on relations between the two countries but also on the well-being of the ethnic Hungarian community in Transcarpathia. Hungary would like the Ukrainian leadership to see the Hungarian minority as a resource that strengthens Ukraine and reinforces Hungarian-Ukrainian relations.

In the interest of good, neighborly relations, the relationship between the two countries should return to the point where it was a few years ago. And as the record clearly shows, Hungary, prior to these recent strains, was among Ukraine’s staunchest advocates in its quest for Euro-Atlantic integration.

We were among the first to grant visa-free travel to Ukrainians to the European Union. We helped more than 1,500 families by offering free holiday opportunities for children from war-torn regions. We gave our clear backing to EU sanctions on Russia (even if it was against our own economic interest), provided hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid to those affected by the war in East Ukraine, and delivered reverse gas flows at a risky time. These are just a few examples; but the list is extensive.

Hungary did this out of solidarity. The stability and security of Ukraine, our eastern neighbor, remains important to us, and, yes, the safety and security of the 150,000 ethnic Hungarians living in the Transcarpathia region of Ukraine is a major concern for us.

Today, as Minister Szijjártó has said, we have many reasons to be optimistic that we will again enjoy a healthy and constructive bilateral relationship. After all, it’s in the interest of both our countries.

Photo credit: The Daily Beast