On Hungarian Passports and Ukrainian Policy

 The story of Hungarian passports, which has recently stirred up Ukrainian society and provoked another round of tension in the international relations, is nothing new for the residents of Transcarpathia.

As a matter of fact, more than 100 thousand Transcarpathians have obtained Hungarian passports for the last ten years. Given the population of the Transcarpathian region and Hungary itself, it is an impressive figure which has been totally ignored by Ukraine for a decade.

The Ukrainian state remained helpless and pretended not to notice the policy and actions of Hungary. While the residents of Transcarpathia took this issuance of passports with favor for it opened the door to the EU for them.

Let me explain it in more detail. If you think that the residents of Transcarpathian towns and villages lined up for the Hungarian passport in order to demonstrate their loyalty to Hungary or because they wanted to become Hungarians, you are sorely mistaken. There could have been those who had such a desire, especially among local ethnic Hungarians, but they are heavily outnumbered.

The Transcarpathians, including Transcarpathian Ukrainians, went for a Hungarian passport, not because of its relation to Hungary, but because it is related to the European Union. Hungary has long failed to demonstrate economic takeoff and has turned into a rather depressed state under Viktor Orbán’s command. Even Slovakia offers higher salaries now, not to mention Poland or the Czech Republic (where most of Transcarpathians move to work now). Many owners of Hungarian passports migrated to the UK or even Canada, i. e. to the countries where they can be offered higher salaries.

The logic of ordinary laborers is not related to politics – it is pragmatic. Issuing Hungarian passports, Viktor Orbán among the other things hoped that the new Hungarian citizens would vote for him at the polls next time. While most of the new Hungarians dropped off the radar the moment they received a new document.

The attitude towards this problem in Transcarpathia is quite calm due to the pragmatic approach of its residents. Hungarian passport is considered simply a tool, a piece of paper allowing to work in the European Union unlimitedly and without any special permission. It seems that the conflict unfolds between Kyiv and Budapest, for it did not cause any notable tension in Transcarpathia.

On the other hand, of course, we, Transcarpathians, are pleased that for the first time in the years of independence, Ukraine acts as an equal partner in its relations with Hungary. It acts with dignity. This does not mean that there was only cringing before. The thing is that our state stopped closing eyes on frank impudence and disparaging attitude from the Hungarian side. Hungarians are simply not used to Ukraine being able to have and (sic!) defend its interests. That is the reason why they are grumbling.

But I believe that Ukraine should learn a lesson from this situation as well. First, it has to take more care of its own citizens – Ukrainians of Hungarian origin, to be more in contact with them, listen to them and work with them. Talking with Budapest about Ukrainian citizens is somehow illogical, isn’t it? We need to understand and find compromise not in a foreign capital, but with our own citizens at home.

Second, and the most important, it is high time for Ukraine to review its policy on dual citizenship. Let’s decide: we are either against it, or we finally allow it. Because it seems like dual citizenship is prohibited in Ukraine, but in reality, it functions with hardly any trouble at all.

This is what led Ukraine to a tough situation. The problem is not in the Hungarian passport granted to Transcarpathian residents, but in Ukraine not controlling or identifying these passports. We do not know how many among our civil servants, military and police officers, local councilors, politicians and businessmen have Hungarian passports. And this is a real threat to our country because such a fifth column is dangerous in our hybrid time. And the fact that ordinary people use those passports to find a job abroad deserves our gratitude. Because they bring all the earned money home and invest it into Ukraine.

Despite obvious risks, dual citizenship would give Ukraine much more benefits. First of all, there are millions of patriotic and active Ukrainians who live in every corner of the world but do not have Ukrainian citizenship. And they dream of it, they want to have it. I met lots of such people in both Americas and Europe! This is our potential, a gold investment fund, a chance to have 52 million Ukrainian citizens again.

Having dual citizenship is a quite typical situation in the modern world, and there is nothing to be afraid of. Instead, it should be used in one’s own interests – in the interests of both the state itself and its citizens.

Another thing is that while Ukraine does not recognize dual citizenship, allowing foreign states to issue their passports on our territory (even despite the extraterritorial status of the diplomatic missions) must be categorically prohibited.

All our neighbors (whether they belong to NATO or the Customs Union) have to respect our laws.

And the best decision would be to do whatever it takes to make people line up for the Ukrainian passports instead of struggling with the foreign ones.

Andriy Lyubka

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