The Hungarian government intends to ask its citizens if they support Ukraine’s future EU membership in a mail-in questionnaire known as the “National Consultation,” according to State Secretary Tamas Menczer of the country’s Foreign Ministry.
Hungary’s so-called “national consultations” are different from a referendum. They grant Hungarians the ability to vote via ballots mailed to their houses by the government.
However, the essential counting and control processes for referendums are seldom followed, and vote gathering can take months. The “consultations” are thought to be attended by supporters of the existing administration.
Reasons behind the Hungarian government’s move
On November 8, the European Commission approved Ukraine and Moldova in their bid to begin EU accession talks. The decision is encouraging for Ukraine, whose military effort against Russia’s invasion and its post-war future is dependent on strong EU relations.
In mid-December, EU leaders will decide whether to accept the Commission’s suggestion to invite Kyiv to begin membership discussions as soon as it meets final requirements.
When agreeing on the final accession plan this December at the European Council Summit, the European Commission should engage and compromise with Hungary and other countries that may oppose Ukraine’s EU entry to establish a united European front.
Pro-Russian Hungarian government position
The Hungarian leadership frequently makes anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian statements.
In September, Orban stated that his country would not support Ukraine’s NATO membership unless specific laws about Hungarian minorities in the country were restored.
Menczer, the state secretary of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, said in a video message about Ukraine’s EU entry that Ukraine “took away the rights of the Hungarian national community.”
Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on state radio on November 10 that the EU must not begin discussions with Ukraine, emphasizing Hungary’s “clear stance”.
The Hungarian “National Consultation” announcement nudges citizens to respond unfavorably.
Menczer framed the probable accession of Ukraine in a negative light in a 40-second video message uploaded on his Facebook page, claiming that it would mean that “the war would be brought into (our) community, and a significant part of the EU resources would also go to Ukraine.”
Ukraine’s attempts to resolve disagreement with the Hungarian government
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Olha Stefanishyna said on November 7 that Kyiv has been in talks with Budapest to settle the issue of the Hungarian minority’s education language in Ukraine.
The deputy prime minister believes that Hungary’s threats to obstruct Ukraine’s EU entry will not impede “real work” for ethnic minorities in Ukraine.
As Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine approaches two years, Hungary has been the only EU nation opposing military help to Ukraine and criticizing sanctions against Moscow.