Why Hungary Is Zelenskyy’s Other Big Problem
Hungary’s strategy to reintegrate its historic lands in Ukraine presents President Volodomyr Zelenskyy with a real problem.
There are plenty of reasons to worry about the future of the region. In the city of Berehove, the Hungarian Transcarpathian Institute offers a program to learn Ukrainian for Hungarian speakers—in Ukraine. A Hungarian flag hangs from the large Catholic church in the downtown square. Incredibly, the city council office boasts Ukrainian and Hungarian flags. I have to keep reminding myself that I am in Ukraine, not Hungary.
There may be a way forward. In the town of Vynohradiv, 13 to 26 percent of the 30,000 residents are Hungarian. They speak Ukrainian and Hungarian fluently and there is a natural mixing of identities. If Zelenskyy is to achieve his goal—Ukraine joining Europe’s tony clubs, including NATO—he must find a way to work with a recalcitrant Budapest and better integrate the Carpathian region into the nation-building project already underway. Overcoming this challenge will be anything but easy.
Melinda Haring is the Deputy Director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. She tweets @melindaharing.