Since the outbreak of the war, Ukraine’s speedy accession to the European Union has become an increasingly prominent issue in European public discourse. The issue of EU accession is a major divide in public opinion and raises many questions. Hungarians have a number of legitimate questions about the EU membership aspirations of their neighbouring country, which Brussels is unable or unwilling to answer. Kyiv is also in no hurry to address the issues raised by the Hungarian side, often sending lecturing and arrogant messages, such as at the EU summit before the 2022 Hungarian parliamentary elections, which many saw as interference in Hungarian elections.
While the Hungarian government is sending humanitarian aid to Ukraine and taking in refugees fleeing the war, Ukrainian leaders are discussing plans that threaten the Hungarian economy’s oil supply. Hungarian society saw it as an example of double standards that in Ukraine a Hungarian bank was for a long time considered an “international supporter of the war”, while other Western banks, equally present in the Russian market, were not.
The situation of the Hungarian minority in Zakarpattia has worsened in several areas in recent times: their rights, previously guaranteed and acquired under Ukrainian law, are being eroded. The Turul statue was removed from the castle of Mukachevo, and when the Ferenc Rákóczi II High School in Zakarpattia was given a Ukrainian principal, the singing of the Hungarian national anthem was banned at the beginning of the school year. They want to switch to teaching in Ukrainian in the educational institutions of the Hungarian minority.
Instead of just passing through Central and Eastern Europe and reaching starving people in the Third World, as originally agreed, Ukrainian grain is flooding our markets. In order to protect local grain markets, four other Member States have introduced restrictive measures this summer, in addition to Hungary. In Poland and Slovakia, road hauliers are closing border crossings in protest at the emergence of cheaper Ukrainian competition, which Brussels is doing nothing to stop.
If Ukraine joined, almost all Member States would become net contributors
Brussels does not make a big deal of the collective defence assistance and support obligations that would arise for other Member States under Article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty if a country at war were to join the EU, potentially dragging the EU further into the war. Ukrainian farmers working on the richest farmland in Europe could, according to some estimates, expect agricultural subsidies of up to EUR 100 billion, which would mean a new payment obligation and almost all Member States would become net contributors, or current agricultural subsidies would have to be reduced by an average of 20% – not to mention the significant need for catch-up funding.
While Poland and Hungary have still not received the EU funds they are entitled to, Brussels is asking for another EUR 70 billion for Ukraine, partly to buy arms which will prolong the war and the suffering of the people living there.
This is why the Hungarian government has proposed to the President of the European Council that the EU heads of state and heads of government should thoroughly discuss their goals for Ukraine and the alternatives to EU membership for a country whose territory and population are volatile because of the war.
Overwhelming majority of Hungarians oppose Ukraine’s EU accession
In its latest public opinion poll, Századvég surveyed opinions on Ukraine’s accession to the EU among the adult Hungarian population. The results show a clear rejection of accession.
An overwhelming majority of Hungarians, 72%, would oppose Ukraine’s rapid accession to the European Union, while only 24% would support it.
If we look at the data for the three months prior to December, we can see that the proportion of those who oppose accession is on a rising trend, while the proportion of those who support it is falling. While in September, the number of those who were against Ukraine’s accession to the EU was roughly twice as high (63%) as the number of those who supported it (32%), in December, three times as many people were against it (72%) as were supporting it (24%).
CATI method, n=1000, among adult Hungarians, December 2023