Kiev's Euro-Atlantic integrations minister insists the bloc will pressure Hungary on the matter
There is a consensus within NATO that Ukraine needs to become a member of the bloc, Ukrainian Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Olga Stefanishina claimed on Thursday. Budapest's objections to Kiev's participation - due to a dispute over ethnic Hungarians living in Ukraine - will be overcome by "political instruments," she added.
A number of the US-led military bloc's most prominent members, including France and Germany, are known to have reservations about allowing Ukraine to join. Furthermore, Kiev's territorial disputes with Russia are thought to render it illegible under the Organization's current rules.
"We have made progress on the question of getting closer to NATO," Stefanishina said at a security forum in Kiev. "At the most recent ministerial summit in Bucharest, all 30 member states agreed on the need to offer Ukraine membership."
Western media reports from the Bucharest event were broadly at variance with Stefanishina's interpretation. Meanwhile, the bloc's own website placed a larger emphasis on China in its wrap from the summit.
"NATO members confirmed that the alliance door is open to Ukraine," she insisted, arguing that the alleged consensus was a "new powerful signal" that shows "no one fears pressure from Russia."
Hungary continues to object to Ukraine's participation in NATO's official meetings, but this has "become a problem" for the bloc, the minister told her audience in Kiev. NATO is now using "all political instruments of pressure to convince Hungary to abandon the blockade," the minister said.
She did not elaborate on the form that such pressure might take. On Wednesday, the EU announced it would withhold billions in funding to Hungary until it complies with 27 "essential milestones" laid out by Brussels. The money includes pandemic relief and "cohesion" funds intended to level social inequalities in the bloc.
Hungary certainly appeared skeptical towards Ukraine's membership in NATO at the Bucharest summit, with Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto arguing that a country could only join the bloc if it "does not threaten but strengthens the security of existing members."
Szijjarto has also reiterated that Budapest would "not agree to a formal meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission until the Hungarians of Transcarpathia have their rights restored."
"We cannot and do not want to retreat from this position," he added, explaining that while Budapest has not raised the issue since the conflict in Ukraine escalated in February, it has not forgotten about it either.