Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: Hungary prepared to aid Ukraine but demands respect for minorities

Hungary is prepared to keep helping Ukraine in the future, but it also expects Kiev to respect the rights of the local Hungarian community, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in Vilnius on Wednesday.

A strong and prosperous Ukraine is in Hungary’s interest, but it is also crucial that the Ukrainian government guarantees the acquired rights of the country’s Hungarian minority, including their right to use their mother tongue, Szijjarto told a conference on Ukraine.

“We want to emphasise that we’re not asking for anything out of the ordinary here,” Szijjarto said. “We simply expect the Ukrainian government to restore the rights the Hungarian minority had enjoyed before law was changed,” he said referring to minority groups’ use of their native language in public administration, education, the press and culture.

Szijjarto also noted the existence of a Ukrainian website listing the country’s “enemies”, which also contains the names of several representatives of Ukraine’s Hungarian minority and Hungarian state officials. The minister asked the conference’s participants to do everything in their power to shut down the website.

As regards the pandemic, Szijjarto said Budapest will carry on with its vaccination campaign in the Transcarpathian region irrespective of the nationalities of those registering for a jab. Also, Hungary once more intends to organise summer camps for Ukrainian children from families affected by conflict in eastern Ukraine after the pandemic has passed, he added.

Szijjarto noted that Hungary has also donated ventilators to Ukraine and said Hungary was also prepared to supply Ukraine with gas to help overcome its shortage.

The minister also noted that Hungary had been the first country to establish diplomatic relations with Ukraine after it gained independence in 1991, adding that Hungary was Ukraine’s fourth most important trading partner in the European Union.

Hungary values Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Szijjarto said, adding that the Hungarian government had always urged closer cooperation between Kiev and the EU, including a visa waiver for Ukrainian citizens.

Szijjarto is expected to meet his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba after the conference.

Hungary backs Lithuania’s fight against illegal immigration

Hungary supports Lithuania in the protection of its borders against illegal immigrants, Szijjarto said, pointing out that Lithuania was protecting the European Union’s external borders.

“Lithuania is now facing the same serious challenge that Hungary faced in 2015 when hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants violated our southern border and with it our sovereignty,” Szijjarto said.

He added that illegal migration now also carried the risk of the spread of the coronavirus.

Alluding to the migrant caravan making its way from Belarus towards Lithuania, Szijjarto said that some 1,400 migrants had crossed into Lithuania illegally so far this year, compared with only 70 in the first half of 2020.

He said that when Hungary faced similar migration pressure, the country had made it clear that it only allowed legal entry onto its territory despite an “onslaught of attacks” from Europe.

“We reserve the right to be the sole authority on who can enter Hungary and whom we want to live together with,” Szijjarto said.

Hungary overcame this challenge by building a fence on its border, the minister noted.

“Long borders like the one on Hungary’s south and the Lithuanian-Belarusian border can’t be protected by human resources alone,” Szijjarto said. “Physical barriers are needed, and a fence is the best solution.”

He said that if Hungary had not erected its fence in 2015, Europe would have seen an influx of hundreds of thousands or millions of more illegal immigrants. “So building the fence was the right decision because we were able to preserve Hungary as we want it to be,” he added.

Leave a Reply