‘Not Our War’ PM Says as Talks Continue on Transcarpathia Minority Rights

Ukraine Crisis

Balázs Orbán, the Prime Minister’s Political Director (center), speaks alongside Heather Nauert, former Foreign Affairs Spokesperson of the U.S. Trump Administration (left) and Bertrand de La Chesnais, politician and retired French Lieutenant General (right) at the conference entitled “Towards a Stable Future: Adapting to a New World Order,” at the Ludovika Campus of the National University of Public Service in Budapest on April 22.

Photo by Zsolt Szigetváry / MTI

In the lead-up to the European Parliamentary elections on June 9, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made clear that keeping Hungary out of the war in Ukraine would be one of the top priorities for the governing Fidesz and Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) alliance at a campaign opening event in Budapest on April 19.

“No migration, no gender, no war!” he declared, citing the alliance’s campaign slogan. Orbán pledged that Hungary would not involve itself with either side of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict as long as the Fidesz-KDNP alliance was in government, adding that had it not been, Hungary would already be “up to its neck” in the war.

Earlier that day, the PM made the same pledge during his weekly interview with Kossuth Rádió, explaining that the conflict was “not our war” and reiterating the need for a ceasefire and the start of peace negotiations.

Orbán recalled recently returning from a European Union summit in Brussels, where he said a “mood of war” had prevailed with the suggestion that soldiers could be sent to the conflict, escalating the war in Ukraine to a “second phase.”

Also in attendance at the EU summit was the PM’s political director, Balázs Orbán, who said that ensuring peace and security for Hungary remained the government’s top priority despite other European leaders continuing to take a “pro-war position.” He emphasized that Hungary would stand by its position of not participating in any preparations for war by refusing to deliver weapons and rejecting EU military support in any form.

“In line with Hungary’s national priorities, we will not participate in cooperation that does not serve our national interests,” he added. The PM’s political director said that Hungary continues to advocate for peace, concluding there was “no military solution” to the war in Ukraine.

Transcarpathia Talks

Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó continued talks over the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, regarding the rights of the ethnic Hungarian population in Transcarpathia, in the west of Ukraine, according to a post on the foreign minister’s Facebook page on April 19.

Szijjártó acknowledged that the bilateral working group created to address the matter had made some progress over the past weeks. However, he added that a lot of work remained to be done, which would require the working group to continue to meet the following week.

Although Szijjártó again accepted there had been progress concerning Ukraine’s treatment of Hungarian minorities, on the sidelines of a meeting of his EU peers on April 22, he said that the country continued to “discriminate” against Hungarian companies.

After recalling that OTP Bank, Hungary’s most significant commercial lender, had earlier been included on Ukraine’s “sponsors of war” list, he said that Kyiv now wanted to revoke the licenses of 14 products Hungarian pharmaceutical company Gedeon Richter sells in Ukraine.

Szijjártó made it clear that until the situation changed, Hungary would not agree to an initiative to allocate an additional EUR 1.5 billion from the European Peace Facility to fund weapons deliveries to Ukraine, on top of the EUR 500 million it had earlier blocked.

“The Hungarian position remains firm and clear,” he said. “As long as we do not get a guarantee from Kyiv that they are finished and won’t re-start the witch-hunt against Hungarian companies active in Ukraine, we won’t be able to contribute to such decisions.”

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of May 6, 2024.

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