The situation of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine’s Zakarpattia region has become a source of conflict between Kyiv and Budapest, as the latter accuses the former of violating the rights of the Hungarian national minority. Hungary has been issuing passports to ethnic Hungarians in Zakarpattia, spreading anti-Ukrainian propaganda, and opposing Ukraine’s education law that requires teaching subjects in Ukrainian. Hungary has also been pursuing a pro-Russian policy, refusing to condemn Putin’s aggression in eastern Ukraine and making gas deals with Moscow.
Ethnic Hungarians make up about 12% of Zakarpattia’s population, and are mostly concentrated in the area along the Ukrainian border with Hungary. They have historical ties to Hungary, as the region was part of the Kingdom of Hungary until 1918, and then briefly returned to Hungarian control during World War II. After the war, Zakarpattia was annexed by the Soviet Union, and became part of independent Ukraine in 1991.
The ethnic Hungarians in Zakarpattia have their own cultural and linguistic identity, and enjoy some degree of autonomy and representation in local government. However, they also face challenges such as poverty, unemployment, corruption, and discrimination. Some of them feel alienated from the Ukrainian state and society, and seek closer ties with Hungary. Others are loyal to Ukraine and support its territorial integrity and European integration.
The Ukrainian government has been trying to balance the rights and interests of the ethnic Hungarians with the need to strengthen national unity and security. It has offered dialogue and cooperation with Hungary, as well as with other neighboring countries that have ethnic minorities in Ukraine. It has also implemented reforms to improve the quality and accessibility of education, health care, and public services in Zakarpattia. However, it has also faced resistance and criticism from some Hungarian politicians and activists, who accuse it of violating international agreements and human rights conventions.
The conflict between Ukraine and Hungary over ethnic minority rights has implications for regional stability and security, as well as for Ukraine’s relations with the European Union and NATO. Hungary has been blocking Ukraine’s integration into these organizations, citing its concerns over the situation of ethnic Hungarians in Zakarpattia. This has caused frustration and disappointment among many Ukrainians, who see Hungary as an unreliable partner and a potential threat. On the other hand, some experts and diplomats have urged dialogue and compromise between the two countries, stressing their common interests and values.