Hungary blocks Ukraine’s access to NATO cyber defense center

Hungary has erected another obstacle to Ukraine’s cooperation efforts with NATO by preventing Kyiv from joining the alliance’s cyber defense center.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said on February 4 that Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing populist government was the only NATO member to veto the decision.

The national security chief said Ukraine applied last year to join the Estonia-based NATO Cyber ​​Defense Cooperative of Excellence (CCDCOE) and all requirements were met.

The veto essentially delays Ukraine’s prospects of joining the cyber defense center for at least six months, since membership applications are reviewed every two years.

Since 2017, Orban’s one-party government has blocked Ukraine from further integration into NATO, a 30-member defense alliance that Kyiv aspires to join.

The dispute stems from a language and education law that Ukraine passed to elevate the status of Ukrainian as a general response to the historical and artificial dominance of the Russian language.

Accordingly, minorities can study in the relevant language during the first four years of schooling, after which primary education switches to Ukrainian. Minority languages ​​are then relegated as a secondary subject at higher education levels – the law does not apply to indigenous peoples, such as the Crimean Tatars. The provision of the laws does not prohibit the establishment of private schools for the teaching of auxiliary languages.

Hungary and Russia shied away from the law. Ukraine argued that the law helps minorities to pursue careers in Ukraine and obtain a university education. Before the law was passed, 62% of primary school graduates from 71 Hungarian-language schools failed a mandatory Ukrainian test, according to the Forum for Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe (FOMOSO), based in Swiss.

Most of the more than 100,000 Ukrainian ethnic Hungarians reside in the westernmost region of Zakarpattia (Transcarpathia).

Ukraine’s refusal to join the CCDCOE comes as Kyiv faced two state-level cyberattacks against the government and other institutions in January, attributed to Russia. Moscow denied being behind the attacks and called the accusation “fake news”.

Budapest initially blocked NATO meetings with Ukraine at ministerial level. In 2019, Hungary also vetoed a NATO statement on Ukraine hours before a Russian state visit because it did not contain a clause on the ‘disenfranchisement’ of the Hungarian minority. from Zakarpattyia.

Considered Russia’s closest ally to the EU, Orban called on the EU to lift sanctions imposed on Russia for forcibly seizing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. In May this year- there, Orban demanded autonomy from the Hungarians of Zakarpattia, which once belonged to Austria. Hungarian monarchy until the end of the First World War.

Ukraine’s domestic intelligence agency, SBU, released a video in 2018 of a Hungarian consul in the Transcarpathian regional town of Berehove issuing Hungarian passports while asking recipients to keep it a secret. Ukrainian legislation prohibits dual nationality and the anonymous Hungarian consul has been expelled.

And last year, Hungary signed a 15-year natural gas purchase contract with the Russian state Gazprom. The deal stipulates that the gas is shipped via Russian pipelines, bypassing Hungary’s neighboring Ukraine.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry later criticized the deal, calling it a political move that made no economic sense since the gas would be transported longer distances around Ukraine to reach Hungary.

The new Russian gas contract in Budapest “does not comply with the principles of the Treaty of Good Neighborhood and Cooperation between Ukraine and Hungary of December 6, 1991”, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said.

Orban is Europe’s longest-serving right-wing populist head of government, having served as prime minister since 2010 with his Fidesz party. He speaks frequently “of the rise of Eurasia and sees Hungary as being at the center of a ‘Berlin-Moscow-Istanbul triangle'”, wrote London-based Chatham House.

“In particular, it has strengthened its ties with Moscow in areas such as energy, by joining Russian pipeline projects, awarding a Russian company the contract to build a nuclear power plant and, more recently, by deciding to host the Russian-controlled International Investment Bank.”

The EU has criticized Orban’s anti-immigration stance and other politicians for backsliding on the rule of law and the fight against corruption. Growing concern prompted the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to recommend a large-scale election observation mission to Hungary for the April 3 parliamentary elections.

Last July, a European Commission report on the rule of law indicated that media freedom and judicial independence were eroding in Hungary. A summary of the report states that “the risks of patronage, patronage and nepotism in high-level public administration as well as the risks stemming from the link between business and political actors remain unaddressed” in Hungary.

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