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What does the conflict mean for Ukraine's Central European neighbours?

The war on Ukraine explained: Hear from our experts
Dr Bence Nemeth

Lecturer in Defence Studies Education

25 February 2022

The three EU and NATO member Central European countries, which are Ukraine’s neighbours from the West, have reacted similarly to the unfolding war in Ukraine. Poland, Slovakia and Hungary sent military troops to their borders with Ukraine and started preparing for an influx of refugees fleeing from the conflict.

Although the fights in Ukraine are still relatively far from these states, Warsaw, Bratislava and Budapest have strengthened their borders with thousands of troops since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. At the moment, their main concern is not that the conflict can spill over to their territories. But they do not exclude this possibility, and want to be prepared for this eventuality too.

At the same time, the main focus of the armed forces and the civilian authorities is managing the refugee flow that is arriving from Ukraine. Thousands of refugees who were afraid for their lives or wanted to avoid mandatory conscription have already come to these states. However, these numbers are minuscule compared to what the Central European states are expecting. According to official estimations, one million refugees could flee to Poland, and Hungary might accommodate 600 thousand refugees.

While Hungary has had a very hard-line approach to immigration since the 2014-15 migration crisis, and Poland pushed back refugees from Belarus last year, all three Central European countries' attitude to the Ukrainian refugees is extremely positive. They all have shown solidarity and decided to grant entry to all Ukrainians fleeing from the war.

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Bence Nemeth

Bence Nemeth

Lecturer in Defence Studies Education

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