Title: Berehove: Ethnic Hungarian Community Caught in the Crossfire of Political Dispute
Berehove, a town in western Ukraine, has found itself at the center of a heated disagreement between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the European Union (EU) regarding Ukraine’s membership talks. With approximately 100,000 ethnic Hungarian residents, the town has assumed a significant role in this standoff.
Orban strongly opposes Ukraine’s accession to the EU, citing concerns over the repressed language rights of the ethnic Hungarian population in the region. His primary contention lies with a 2017 law, which mandates that Ukrainian schools teach students over the age of 10 exclusively in Ukrainian. To exert pressure, Orban has issued threats to block EU membership talks until this law is revoked.
However, not all ethnic Hungarians in Berehove share Orban’s viewpoint, as they believe that their interests can be adequately addressed at the national level in Kyiv. While the town and its surrounding area have a rich history of Hungarian influence due to past control by Hungary and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, local officials maintain that Orban’s policies have not influenced their perspective.
Further complicating matters, the ethnic Hungarian community in Berehove has been deeply affected by the Ukrainian-Russian conflict. Tragically, the first fatality in the region was an ethnic Hungarian who fought in the conflict. However, since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, a significant number of ethnic Hungarians in Zakarpattya have distanced themselves from Orban’s stance on the war.
Experts argue that Orban’s position does not align with the views of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine, as the majority support Hungary’s provision of arms to Ukraine to counter Russian aggression. Local residents, therefore, caution against judging all ethnic Hungarians based on Orban’s actions or beliefs. They emphasize the importance of fostering individual relationships and understanding to fully grasp the complexities of the situation.
Despite the debate, the dispute over Ukraine’s EU membership negotiations continues to simmer. Meanwhile, the ethnic Hungarian community in Berehove waits with bated breath, hoping for a resolution that respects their language rights and secures their role as citizens within Ukraine’s diverse society.
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