Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: Restoring East-West cooperation national security interest

Restoring pragmatic cooperation between East and West is a national security interest for Hungary because whenever there was a conflict between the two blocks, central Europe has always suffered from it, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Tuesday.

The ministry cited Szijjarto as saying at a podium discussion organised by the Antalya Diplomacy Forum and the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade that the existing political and economic world order had recently fallen apart. As a result, the basis for Europe’s economic development, the combination of advanced western technologies and cheap Russian energy resources, has been lost, he added.

Nobody knows if the ties currently being cut can be restored in the future, and Eurasian cooperation seems less realistic now, with the armed conflict in Ukraine and the war rhetoric, he said.

“We believed in a future where good cooperation can exist between regional integrations and in a global order where the West and the East can work together in a pragmatic and civilised manner,” he added.

Experience from history shows that Hungary and central Europe have always lost out on conflicts between East and West.

“We are arguing in support of restoring cooperation because it is a core national security interest and not because we are someone’s spy,” he said.

Even before the war in Ukraine, European discourse had been excessively focused on ideology and politics, he said. Already at that time, it was difficult to negotiate based on pragmatism and common sense, and the armed conflict has further deteriorated the situation, he added.

When someone uses a voice of pragmatism and common sense, they are immediately accused of breaking the unity of the EU and NATO, and even representing Russia and the Kreml’s propaganda, he said.

There are three issues that could bring overall changes in order to find real solutions to the existing challenges, he added.

The first is a return to mutual respect in international relations, which has been fully missing in recent times, Szijjarto said. The second is for everyone to understand that ideological and political approaches must not overrule physical realities, he said. The third is whether channels of communication can be kept open between the opponents, he added.

Regarding the latter, he said efforts by Turkiye were especially important because they helped resolve the problem of Ukrainian grain exports.

Hungary’s success depends on how much it can be integrated in the international economy, primarily in its export performance and attracting foreign investments, he added.

Hungary has a vested interest in a strong European Union, with around 80 percent of Hungarian exports directed to other member states, he said. This is also the reason why the government is actively participating in the disputes concerning the community’s future, he added.

Dominant political ideologies only weaken the block and the notion of a Unites States of Europe is a dead-end street, he said.

A strong EU must be based on strong member states that proudly represent their own cultural, historical and religious roots, he added.

Hungary, Turkiye to step up cooperation

Hungary and Turkiye are about to sign an agreement on “priority strategic cooperation”, as Turkiye has a key role in tackling the major challenges currently facing Hungary, Szijjarto said after talks with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu. Szijjarto told a joint press conference that Turkiye’s role in tackling global challenges had grown in recent years.

Regarding the war in Ukraine, Szijjarto said that Hungary, as a neighbour of Ukraine, “feels all negative effects of the war gravely and palpably”, so it has a vested interest in peace. “Unfortunately, we must note that very few in the Transatlantic world … talk about or act for peace,” he said.

Speaking of peace “requires courage, as it brings on the relentless criticism from the liberal mainstream, which paints those involved as Putin’s allies, Russophiles and Kremlin propagandists,” he said.

Referring to an agreement on restarting grain deliveries from Ukraine, Szijjarto said Turkiye’s successful mediation had shown that negotiation was the only way to end the war.

He noted that Attila Tilki, a lawmaker of ruling Fidesz, is a member of a council within the Organisation of Turkic States that has recommended Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the Nobel Peace Prize. Erdogan, he added, was the only successful negotiator in respect of the war so far.

Turkiye is also key to handling the energy supply crisis hitting Europe and Hungary. The TurkStream pipeline remains the only east-west pipeline on the continent operating at full capacity, he said. Diversification, a key concept for energy security in the future, is dependent to a large extent on Azeri resources which would also be delivered via Turkiye, he said.

Talks are under way on increasing Hungary’s access to Turkish gas lines to deliver Azeri gas that way, he said.

Meanwhile, Europe would be unable to handle another global challenge, illegal migration, without Turkiye, Szijjarto said.

Hungary is under significant pressure: Hungarian authorities have thwarted 260,000 attempts at illegal entry last year only, he said.

He called on the international community to enable Syrian refugees in Turkiye to return to their homelands. “That would be key to Turkiye’s peace, stability and calm, but also an important European measure against migration,” he said.

Elevating the level of cooperation between Hungary and Turkiye would help Hungary tackle all three challenges, Szijjarto said. The agreement could be signed “at the next high-level meeting”, he said.

Responding to a question on the NATO integration of Finland and Sweden, Szijjarto said the Hungarian parliament will table the ratification document in February. At the same time, he said he would “not rush Turkiye on the issue, as Hungary never rushes other countries on matters unrelated to Hungary.”

He called burning of the Koran at a Swedish protest was “unacceptable”. The Swedish statement that the gesture was an act protected by the principle of free speech was “stupid”, he said. “Countries looking to join NATO with Turkish support should act more carefully,” he said.

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