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Ukraine in the cross-hairs

February 27th, 2014

Pundits across the political spectrum ponder the fate and future of crisis ridden Ukraine. Left-wing and moderate conservative analysts hope that the EU will help the country down the democratic path, but warn that Russia may try to prevent Ukraine’s European integration. A right-wing daily, on the other hand, cautions against optimism and fears the plundering of Ukraine by Western investors. A centrist blogger proposes federalization as an alternative to break-up.

Ukraine is a test case for the European Union, Edit Inotai suggests in Népszabadság. She sees the active involvement of the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland in the crisis as proof of an awareness within the EU that it must show determination and strength in order to put itself on the geopolitical map. Inotai, however, is uncertain whether the Union will be able to rise to the occasion and offer a clear accession path for Ukraine.

Writing in the same daily, Gábor Miklós remarks that Ukraine’s transition from oligarchic rule to democracy is conditional on Russian consent. Miklós fears that Russian President Putin may consider Ukranie’s drift from Russian influence as a threat to his power and to Russia’s geopolitical interests. If that happens, one can only hope he will refrain from military action similar to the 2008 invasion of Georgia, Miklós writes.

The abolition of the Language Act allowing the use of minority languages in public is a huge step backwards, István Pataky comments in Magyar Nemzet, on the decision of the Rada (Parliament) to revoke the 2012 law. Although the decision targeted Russian speakers living in the eastern regions of Ukraine, the 150,000 strong Hungarian minority in the Subcarpathian region is also affected. Pataky finds it understandable that Ukraine wants to speed-up nation building in order to reinforce its sovereignty. Ukrainian nation-building should, however, respect the rights of the Hungarian minority, Pataky suggests. He hopes that the new Ukranian nationalist elites consider EU integration an important aim, and will respect European minority protection standards rather than targeting the national minorities as internal enemies.

Magyar Hírlap’s László Bogár speculates that an invisible “global force” orchestrated the Ukraine upheaval in order to gain access to the country’s markets and natural resources. The pro-government economist known for his anti-globalist views predicts that Ukraine will soon be plundered by these same hidden global “background powers”. The price of an IMF loan and EU-partnership agreement will be painful pro-market reforms and austerity, Bogár predicts. If Ukrainians were aware of their likely fate, they would unite and fight the global background powers rather than exchanging blows with each other, Bogár concludes.

In a similarly pessimistic piece in the same daily, Gyula T. Máté contends that the revolt is a battle between competing oligarchs. He believes that the former pro-Russian businessmen are being replaced by oligarchs that claim to be supportive of the EU. In reality, the allegedly democratic new elites will be as corrupt as their predecessors, he believes. In an aside Máté notes that the price of temporarily stabilizing Ukraine through a loan from the EU will be paid by current EU member states, including Hungary.

The federalization of Ukraine could help to overcome regional, cultural and ethnic cleavages, Balázs Fekete remarks in Mos Maiorum. Fekete notes that the revolt started as a protest against the corrupt regime and demonstrators used pro-EU slogans, but it would be unrealistic to assume that the situation can be resolved without Russia’s consent. As a possible solution, Fekete proposes that the federalization of Ukraine could possibly help the different ethnic groups to keep the country together in a somewhat looser format. A federation of Western, Eastern and Crimean territories may provide the only feasible institutional framework for Ukraine, Fekete concludes.

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