Hungary Demands Ukraine Recognize Transcarpathia as “Traditionally Hungarian”

On June 25th, 2024, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine Olha Stefanishyna announced that Ukraine was ready to accept eleven demands made on Kyiv by Hungary regarding the recognition of Hungarian minority rights in Southwestern Ukraine. This agreement is a major concession made by Kyiv to grease the wheels on the European Union accession talks for Ukraine and Moldova’s membership which began on the 25th.

One of those key demands is to recognize Transcarpathia (Zakarpattia Oblast) as “traditionally Hungarian”.

The Transcarpthian region was in constant flux in the 20th century, changing hands no less than seven times due to border changes from the First and Second World Wars. When Ukraine gained independence in 1991, Hungary was the first nation to recognize Ukrainian statehood, and relations were cemented in promises of cultural autonomy to the Hungarians in the region. However, Ukraine’s 2017 Education Law soured relations when it demanded Hungarians learn Ukrainian as the primary language in state schools from grade five.

It is not clear if Ukraine will amend the 2017 laws to grant ethnic Hungarians in Zakarpattia Oblast their previous rights to language autonomy. Still, this is the major sticking point between the bilateral relations.

Map showing Transcarpathia (Zakarpattia Oblast) compared to the whole of Ukraine.
Map showing the predominant language spoken in Zakarpattia Oblast in 2001.