Hungary is expelling a Ukrainian consul in retaliation against Ukraine’s expulsion of a Hungarian consul, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto announced on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Ukraine’s foreign ministry declared a Hungarian consul serving in Berehove (Beregszasz) persona non grata and ordered him to leave the country within 72 hours.
Hungary and Ukraine have been locked in a diplomatic row over dual citizenship ever since hidden camera footage showing the Hungarian consul conducting a Hungarian naturalization ceremony for Ukrainian citizens at the consulate appeared online. Szijjarto stressed that Hungary will continue to block Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO and the EU.
He told a press conference that the foreign ministry had summoned Ukraine’s ambassador to Hungary and told her that a consul working at the embassy would have to leave Hungary within 72 hours. Hungary’s interest lies in fostering good relations with all of its neighboring countries, Szijjarto said. But over the past several months, he said, Ukraine had been “escalating the conflict with Hungary.”
The minister insisted the consul that Ukraine has expelled had not broken any of Ukraine’s laws by conducting the oath-taking ceremony. He said it was a fact that the recording of the ceremony had been a Ukrainian secret service operation that went against “every written and unwritten rule of diplomacy”.
On another subject, Szijjarto said that Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday started debating a language bill he said would be detrimental to the Hungarian community, in spite of the country’s promises to hold off on a debate. He called it “unacceptable” that the bill would now require that a language must to be used by 33 percent of the population in a given administrative area in order for it to be declared an official language instead of the original 10 percent requirement.
Under the law, Szijjarto said, the 150,000 Hungarians living in western Ukraine’s Transcarpathia region would lose their right to use their mother tongue. The minister said such a situation would be in breach of international regulations. Szijjarto also noted that Ukraine was deploying police and military forces near its border with Hungary. If a country with aspirations to join NATO deploys a portion of its troops at the border of a NATO country, then it cannot join the alliance, he said. And if a country hoping to join the European Union “launches an attack on the institution of dual citizenship, then that country’s aspirations for European integration can’t be seen as credible, either,” he added.