Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó, and Ukraine’s Head of Presidential Office Andriy Yermak met in the Ukrainian border city of Uzhhorod, 20 km to the Hungarian border on 29 January 2024.
“The purpose of the visit is to normalize bilateral relations between the two countries by strengthening dialogue at the community level and addressing a number of topical issues,” the Ukrainian press release states.
Péter Szijjártó arrived in Ukraine at the Ukrainian side’s invitation. Head of Ukraine’s Zakarpattia Regional Military Administration, Viktor Mykyta, also participated in the talks. Szijjártó praised Mykyta for “bringing a completely new approach to Zakarpattia: a culture of reconciliation so that Ukrainians and Hungarians can live side by side in peace and harmony.
“We would like to improve the cooperation between Ukraine and Hungary, so it is good that the head of the Oblast Administration joined the Ukrainian delegation at the border in Zahon,” Szijarto wrote.
As was previously reported, Hungary claimed more rights for the Hungarian minority, comprising nearly 10% in Ukraine’s Zakarpattia region, while the leader of the Hungarian parliamentarian far-right party Mi Hazank (Our Homeland), even said it would claim Zakarpattia region if Ukraine loses its statehood due to the war with Russia.
During the negotiations, Szijjártó said he wanted Hungarians in Zakarpattia to have rights that they had before 2015. However, Ukraine has already adopted the key law on education in 2023 which returned such rights for Hungarians, in particular, the right to receive entire school education in Hungarian and not only during the first four years.
Before the negotiations, officials also paid tribute to the fallen defenders of Ukraine from the Zakarpattia region. Andriy Yermak, Dmytro Kuleba, and Péter Szijjártó placed icon lamps at the monument to the fallen defenders at the Kalvaria cemetery. They also visited the graves of the servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine of Hungarian nationality who perished in the war with the Russian aggressor.
Before the negotiations, Minister @DmytroKuleba, Head of the Office of the President @AndriyYermak & the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary Péter Szijjártó paid tribute to 🇺🇦 soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the sovereignty & territorial integrity of Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/ExunJjjEfW
— MFA of Ukraine 🇺🇦 (@MFA_Ukraine) January 29, 2024
Earlier, it was reported that the meeting of the Ministers of the Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and Hungary is aimed at preparing the meeting between the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban.
Hungary has vetoed numerous EU decisions on Ukraine. In particular, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban threatened to block the vast EUR 50 billion aid package to Ukraine once again on 1 February 2024. However, the EU and Ukraine sought leverage to normalize relations with Hungary.
As it was reported, Budapest sent troops to Ukraine’s border in February 2022, at the beginning of the Russian invasion, raising speculations that Hungary was posed to occupy Ukraine’s westernmost Zakarpattia Oblast immediately after Putin took Kyiv. However, the Hungarian expert András Rácz, who until recently worked for Hungary’s state Institute for Strategic and Defence Studies and is currently a Senior Fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations, said these speculations are groundless, saying that Hungary’s military presence was not meant for attacking Ukraine, but rather as part of a contingency plan in the event of a humanitarian crisis and massive refugee wave.