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Hungary-Ukraine skirmish over dual citizenship

October 6th, 2018

As Ukraine and Hungary exchange diplomatic blows over Hungarian dual citizenship in Ukraine, a pro-government and a left-wing columnist ponder how Budapest can best protect the interests of the Hungarian minority in that country.

On Thursday, Ukraine expelled the Hungarian consul in Beregszász (Berehove), western Ukraine. In retaliation, Foreign Minister Szijjártó also expelled a Ukrainian diplomat from Hungary. The diplomatic friction began after a secretly filmed video showing Hungarians taking the citizenship oath at the Hungarian consulate in Beregszász was published on YouTube in late September. The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on Hungary to stop issuing Hungarian citizenship in its consulates in Ukraine. In the Hungarian government’s interpretation, issuing Hungarian citizenship in Ukraine is not against Ukrainian or international law.

Magyar Idők’s Levente Sitkei thinks that the Hungarian government is justified in protecting the interest of transborder Hungarians even if this provokes a diplomatic dispute with Ukraine. The pro-government columnist suspects that the Ukrainian governing parties are fomenting fear of Hungarians in the hope of gaining nationalist votes in the March Presidential election. The is being done by criticizing Hungarian citizenship policies and also by restricting the use of the Hungarian language in schools. Sitkei dismisses any idea that Hungarians or Hungary might threaten Ukraine’s territorial integrity. He reassures his readers that Hungary has enough diplomatic leverage to defend the interests of Hungarians in Ukraine.

In Népszava, Mária Gál suggests that the diplomatic skirmish is actually a dispute between two nationalist governments. The left-wing columnist thinks that both governments are using this opportunity to strengthen their nationalist image within their own constituencies. She  acknowledges that the Hungarian government had to react to defend Hungarians in Ukraine, but finds the Hungarian government’s retaliation irresponsible, fearing that Hungary will be seen by the Ukrainian government as an ally of Russia. To defend Hungarian minorities and their rights in Ukraine, the Hungarian government should be more cautious and should closely cooperate with the European Union, Gál recommends.

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