US tightens visa waiver after Hungarian passport fraud

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USA restricts visa waiver for Hungarian passport holders

The United States imposed restrictions on Tuesday for Hungarian passport holders under its Visa Waiver Program amid concerns that foreign nationals have used fraudulently obtained travel documents, the Washington Post reports. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) validity for Hungarian passport holders will be reduced to one year, and it will only be valid for a single use. 

"According to the American authorities, there are criminals who have obtained Hungarian passports because the verification of the identity of those applying for Hungarian citizenship was not adequate prior to 2020," Matthew Miller, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said during a press conference on Tuesday. "We were trying to work with the government to give them an opportunity to correct the situation. It is not a step we wanted to take today. We engaged with them for multiple years (...) working through possible changes they could make, and they refused, "Miller added.

In 2018, Hungarian investigative outlet Direkt 36 reported about 700 non-Hungarians fraudulently obtained authentic Hungarian passports and assumed the identities of the original passport holders.

U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman said “It is an unfortunate decision in response to the inaction of the government of Hungary to respond to serious security concerns which we have been engaging on over many years and multiple administrations.”

Hungary becomes the only EU country with no female minister

With Justice Minister Judit Varga stepping down, the Orban government remains without a single female minister, Euronews reports. "From tomorrow, there will be no female ministers in the government. Thank you to Judit Varga for her service, and I wish her and her successors strength and tenacity for the work that lies ahead.
We need women in Hungary’s public life!"  Hungarian President Katalin Novak posted on her social media.

Varga announced her resignation in June. Bence Tuzson, a confidant of Antal Rogan will succeed her. Varga's new role is to lead Fidesz's campaign for the 2024 European Parliament elections and will become the ruling party's lead candidate. 

Euronews looked at the composition of the 27 EU governments as of 1 August and over 33% of ministerial positions across the EU are held by women -  with Finland having the highest tally. 

Russia might transfer more Ukrainian POWs to Hungary

Ukrainian prisoners of war held by Russia may again arrive in Hungary in August, Tagesspiel has learned from Ukrainian intelligence sources. It is not known whether this time the Hungarian side has informed Ukraine. 

In June, the Russian Orthodox Church announced that Russia had handed over to Hungary a group of eleven Ukrainian prisoners of war from Transcarpathia, near the Ukrainian border, as part of so-called "inter-church cooperation". It was the first time since the start of the war that the Ukrainian authorities were not informed of the details of a prisoner exchange. Earlier Radio Free Europe reported,  that the eleven people had been captured during battles near Kupiansk in Kharkiv Oblast. In a joining investigation, RFE and The Kyiv Independent revealed that the prisoners were brought to Hungary via Turkey, as all direct air travel between Russia and the EU has ceased.

According to the investigation, Hungarian authorities suggested to the eleven Ukrainian soldiers that "it would be a better option for them if they did not go back to Ukraine and if they went home, they would be “sent back to the front immediately," 

This was also confirmed by Oleg Nikolenko, spokesman of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. “We have information, and this is confirmed by those Ukrainians who returned to Ukraine, were subjected to psychological pressure there, they received distorted information.”

Zelensky meets Hungarian soldiers for the first time

In Berehovo, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met with members of the 128th Mountain Assault Brigade. 

The Ukrainian president posted photos of the meeting on Twitter, where he wrote:  "We are all citizens of Ukraine, ethnic Hungarians, ethnic Ukrainians, and all our other national communities. We all defend our country, and we all help our warriors – all our heroes. I thank our defenders. I thank the Hungarian community and the entire Zakarpattia region for their respectful and caring attitude towards the IDPs, and for welcoming all our people. The Russian aggressor is a threat to all people who value freedom, peace, and development. Their system has brought captivity and suffering to the peoples of this part of Europe - Ukrainians, Hungarians, Poles, Czechs, and others. "