Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

I swear allegiance... to Hungary

How should Ukraine react to a neighboring country engaging in systemic violations of Ukrainian law?
21 September, 2018 - 17:27
PHOTO TRANSKARPATIA.NET

Recently, a video appeared online that caused outrage in Ukraine and once again brought to the forefront the issue of our neighboring countries issuing their passports to Ukrainian citizens in western regions. The record, released by Youtube user Konstantin, clearly shows a few people, apparently Ukrainians, obtaining Hungarian passports, after which they swear an oath of allegiance to Hungary and perform the national anthem of that country. And most importantly, as the ceremony comes to an end, consular employees can be heard asking these people “to hide from Ukraine's government bodies the fact of obtaining Hungarian citizenship.” According to media reports, this video was recorded at the Hungarian Consulate in Berehove.

"Now Hungary has two options: either to prove that the video of passport issuance ceremony at the Hungarian Consulate General in Berehove is a fake, or to take action right now. I think that only the second one is realistic,", Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin tweeted. In addition, he said that during the coming session of the UN General Assembly in New York, he would meet with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. "If the video of Ukrainians being issued Hungarian passports in Berehove is not a fake, I think the diplomat responsible will have to switch to issuing Hungarian passports in Budapest. And not to Ukrainian citizens. It is more convenient that way", he added.

“The Ukrainian state should move from gentle persuasion to taking decisive action to prevent the Russian scenario of 'Donbasization' from unfolding in Zakarpattia. Firstly, we need to put an end to the subversion being spread by Hungarian and Russian emissaries. The foreign provocateurs should be sent home, and their local assistants brought to justice,” wrote Hanna Hopko, chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Foreign Affairs. "Secondly, we have to deal with illegal dual citizenship. Thirdly, Ukraine must strengthen its security presence in Zakarpattia, including through re-garrisoning Berehove and other cities with military units and deploying units of the National Guard there. But the main thing to do is to change the leadership of the region and decisively purge the executive bodies and law enforcement structures in Zakarpattia,” she stressed.

It should be noted that Ukrainian legislation does not criminalize dual citizenship. So, The Day asked  experts to comment on this situation and to tell us what response the Ukrainian authorities should offer to the actions of the Hungarian government in this case:

“BLACKMAILING UKRAINE AND PRESENTING ILLEGITIMATE DEMANDS WILL NEVER MEET A FAVORABLE RESPONSE OF ANY KIND”

Volodymyr Vasylenko, Doctor of Law, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine:

“First of all, we should send a note of protest in response to these actions by the Hungarian side. Secondly, I would close this consulate because it engages in activities that are contrary to both Ukrainian and international law. In addition, the Law 'On the Citizenship of Ukraine' should be amended and enhanced with sanctions for the acquisition of dual citizenship without prior renunciation of one's Ukrainian citizenship, in contravention of the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine.”

Why does the Ukrainian government do nothing in response to such actions on Hungary's part?

“Obviously, it does not want to exacerbate relations with the neighboring country, hoping that it will be resolved somehow all by itself. However, nothing will get resolved by itself, because the Hungarian side, unfortunately, has taken an irreconcilable position towards Ukraine, interfering with our internal affairs and trying to impose a model of behavior that would suit Hungary alone to the detriment of Ukraine's national interests. It is unacceptable and in the end it is necessary to take a firm stand, to make it clear both verbally and by actions that blackmaling Ukraine and presenting illegitimate demands will never met a favorable response of any kind.”

“WE NEED TO GET INTO GOOD ORDER UKRAINIAN LEGISLATION”

Dmytro Tuzhansky, a political analyst and expert on Ukrainian-Hungarian relations:

“Issuance of Hungarian passports to Ukrainian citizens in the region of Zakarpattia is not a new story. This has been happening since 2011. In 2010, one of the first decisions of the new Hungarian parliament and the then ruling majority party, headed by Viktor Orban, was amending the law on citizenship, in particular by introducing a simplified procedure for the acquisition of citizenship, which entered in force on January 1, 2011. Since then, all countries of the so-called Carpathian Basin – Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Ukraine – have seen Hungarian citizenship being issued to ethnic Hungarian citizens under a simplified procedure.

This procedure is openly described on the web resources of virtually all Hungarian diplomatic missions abroad: the applicant must collect a set of documents confirming that they are an ethnic Hungarian or their relatives are ethnic Hungarians or had Hungarian citizenship (for example, as citizens of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1920 or in the Czechoslovak period in Zakarpattia, etc.), know the Hungarian language, fill out a questionnaire and submit these documents.

Regarding the response of Ukraine. our government did respond and, according to my information, it has repeatedly requested that Hungary respect Ukrainian law and not issue Hungarian passports to Ukrainian citizens. It was mainly done along diplomatic lines, not publicly. This video has made this question a public one. Until now, it was a taboo, was not discussed, and the problem accumulated and worsened, especially in the face of Russia's aggression in Crimea and the Donbas, where the Russian passport played a key role.

One cannot call Ukraine's response a harsh one, but at the same time it cannot be described as insufficient, Klimkin said that the consulate's employees who got recorded on the video were at risk of becoming non grata persons in Ukraine. However, this is not the harshest response possible.

Declaring people non grata or sending protests will not solve the problem. Ukrainian citizens have obtained over 100,000 Hungarian passports. One can only imagine how many Romanian passports are held by Ukrainians in Bukovyna. In addition, Ukrainians hold passports of other countries as well. That is, the problem is not only between Ukraine and Hungary, as citizenship, and especially the issue of dual citizenship, is a serious major Ukrainian problem.

We need a systemic, properly bureaucratic effort; we need to get into good order Ukrainian legislation as well. But again, this is a very risky pursuit to engage in on the eve of an election. It is necessary to start a dialogue with all neighbors, because Hungary was doing it unilaterally: Ukraine was protesting, while the other party kept issuing passports. This is not a healthy situation, as diplomats and lawyers should sit down and seek a solution at a shared table. This problem had to emerge sooner or later. There must be discussions, debates and this question is definitely not a matter to be dealt with in a year.

THE INFAMOUS VIDEO... THE INSCRIPTION READS: “I SWEAR THAT I CONSIDER HUNGARY TO BE MY HOMELAND”

I think that this video was on the one hand accidental, and on the other, not really accidental. At the same time, I would not like to engage in conspiracy theories: who planned, or did not plan, it all. The bottom line is that this problem exists, people have long been aware of it, both on the Ukrainian and Hungarian sides, they know about the procedure and the oaths. And now everyone saw it on a video and there was a scandal. For a few hundreds thousand Ukrainian citizens, this video is not a sensation, it brings back memories because they were undergoing the same procedure at some point.

By Natalia PUSHKARUK, The Day
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