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The Course of Hungarian-European Union Relations

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Hungary proceeds in a different line from the common attitude adopted by the member states within the European Union (EU). The Russia-Ukraine War, which has been going on since February 2022, has deepened the differences of opinion between Hungary and the EU and brought along a serious tension. The situation in question creates pressure on the Hungary Government. While condemning Russia’s attack on Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Budapest administration both maintained close relations with Russia and refrained from providing aid to Ukraine.

It is seen that the Hungarian Government opposes EU aid to Ukraine in 2022. In this context, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said, “This is not our war.”  is emphasizing. At this point, it should be noted that; it is known that there were problems in the relations between the two countries in 2010, when there was a serious tension due to the Hungarian minority living in the Transcarpathia region in the west of Ukraine, and again due to the problems related to minority problems.[1]

The situation in question is seen as one of the main reasons for Hungary’s attitude towards Ukraine within the scope of the Russia-Ukraine War. However, the main determining factor of Hungary’s foreign policy in 2022 is the ongoing close relations of the Budapest administration with Moscow.

Hungary is not in favor of going to a blockage, as it was during the Cold War. For this reason, despite being a member of the EU, which can be seen as a pole, it takes care to keep good relations with other international actors such as Russia, quite different from the common attitude of the union.

According to the strategy adopted by Budapest, Hungary needs to find allies who see the world in a similar way.[2] Within the framework of the strategy in question, it is seen that Hungary has started to emphasize common problems more frequently in its relations with Serbia. On January 10, 2023, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijarto announced that, after her meeting with her Serbian counterpart, Ivica Dacic, Hungary would vote against Kosovo’s membership in European bodies.[3] The EU, on the other hand, has welcomed Kosovo’s membership application positively. This is indicates that the Hungary with the EU will face the challenge of Kosovo’s membership in 2023.

Orban is of the opinion that the sanctions by the EU following Russia’s intervention in Ukraine harmed Europe and Hungary. In this context, Orban called on the members of the Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Alliance Party to lift the sanctions at a closed-door meeting held in September 2022.[4] The issue of sanctions is considered a major risk for the Orban administration due to Hungary’s dependence on Russian energy.

In this context, the government held national consultation for EU sanctions and 97% of the respondents rejected the sanctions.[5] However, it should be emphasized that the participants are 1.4 million people compared to Hungary’s population of 9.7 million. This caused the EU to ignore the said decision. This development is also evaluated as Orban trying new methods to remove the pressure created by the sanctions against Russia.

In December 2022, due to concerns about corruption and the rule of law in Hungary, the EU decided to cut the funds. The views on the future of relations between Hungary and the EU are that an agreement will be reached on EU funds. Surely, a compromise can be reached on this in the future; however, this is not expected to happen in the near future. Because, according to a survey conducted by the Szazadveg Foundation, 74% of Hungarians oppose the cutting of EU funds and around 60% think that the EU took this move to punish Hungary.[6]

Undoubtedly, the Russia-Ukraine War has exposed the Eastern European and Balkan countries, which are both dependent on Russian energy and have close relations with Russia in the past, to the risk of economic crisis. This is also true for Hungary. In addition to the energy crisis, the problems stemming from the country model Orban developed on cheap money policy and high spending continue.[7] It can be argued that the difficulties of 2022 for Hungary will continue in 2023.

As a result, although there is a possibility of reconciliation between Hungary and the EU, it can be said that there will not be a serious improvement in relations in the near future. The policy pursued by Orban in domestic and foreign policy also confirms this. Therefore, it can be argued that Budapest will continue its relations with Moscow.


[1] “Hungary: What’s Viktor Orban’s Problem with Ukraine?”, Deutsche Welle, https://amp.dw.com/en/hungary-whats-viktor-orbans-problem-with-ukraine/a-64063750, (Date of Accession: 20.01.2023).

[2] “Viktor Orbán’s Political Director Outlines Hungary’s Strategy”, Hungary Today, https://hungarytoday.hu/viktor-orbans-political-director-outlines-hungarys-strategy/, (Date of Accession: 20.01.2023).

[3] “Sijarto iznio stav Mađarske: Glasaćemo protiv članstva Prištine u evropskim tijelima”, Oslobodjenje, https://www.oslobodjenje.ba/vijesti/region/sijarto-iznio-stav-madarske-glasacemo-protiv-clanstva-pristine-u-evropskim-tijelima-825374, (Date of Accession: 20.01.2023).

[4] “Orban Wants EU Sanctions on Russia Lifted by Year End”, The Guardian, https://editor.guardian.ng/news/orban-wants-eu-sanctions-on-russia-lifted-by-year-end/, (Date of Accession: 20.01.2023).

[5] “Hungarians Reject Energy Sanctions in National Consultation”, Hungary Today, https://hungarytoday.hu/hungarians-reject-energy-sanctions-in-national-consultation/, (Date of Accession: 20.01.2023).

[6] “Most Hungarians Oppose the Withholding of EU Funds, Poll Shows”, Hungary Today, https://hungarytoday.hu/most-hungarians-oppose-the-withholding-of-eu-funds-poll-shows/, (Date of Accession: 20.01.2023).

[7] “Will Hungary’s Orban Weather the Storms of 2023?”, Deutsche Welle, https://amp.dw.com/en/hungary-will-orban-weather-the-storms-of-2023/a-64307826, (Date of Accession: 20.01.2023).

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Begüm AKKAYA
Ankara Üniversitesi Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü