Photo: MTI

Government ‘will never abandon protection of Ukraine Hungarians’, minister says

The government will never abandon efforts to protect ethnic Hungarians in Transcarpathia "even in the face of massive pressure from both sides of the Atlantic", Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said after talks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the sidelines of a meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Tuesday.

Concerning NATO’s plans to convene a ministerial level meeting of the NATO-Ukraine committee, Szijjarto said the move undermined NATO unity, adding that the Hungarian government would withhold support for Ukraine joining NATO until “Hungarian minority rights are restored” there.

Concerning his talks with Stoltenberg, Szijjarto quoted the NATO chief as saying that “Hungary is a reliable NATO ally that contributes to the security of the European and Transatlantic community.” He added that the Hungarian government considered NATO as a “community of values” and only countries that honour the rights of ethnic minorities “should get close to NATO”.

“Regrettably, this is not the case in Ukraine,” he said. “The rights of ethnic minorities, including those of the Hungarian community, have been continuously eroded since 2015,” he said. That is why the Hungarian government has been blocking proposals to convene the NATO-Ukraine committee in recent years, he added.

Szijjarto said Stoltenberg had taken the Hungarian government’s concerns seriously. The NATO chief said he would convene a ministerial level meeting of the NATO-Ukraine committee during a council of foreign ministers meeting scheduled for April 4, “despite Hungary’s … position that the meeting should only be convened unanimously,” he said, adding that Hungary nevertheless acknowledge Stoltenberg’s decision, and a discussion of minority issues would be on the agenda of the meeting.

Meanwhile, Szijjarto said the government was proud of Hungarian military developments, adding that Hungary would soon meet NATO’s expectations to spend 2 percent of GDP on defence. He added that Hungary was already spending 20 percent of its defence budget on developments.

Szijjarto noted that NATO’s Europe commander is scheduled to visit Hungary at the end of the month.

Referring to his talks with EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, Szijjarto said Hungary’s energy supplies were safe “thanks to brave investments in recent years”. “Had we not built a south-south-east gas pipeline, the supply of natural gas to Hungary would now be physically impossible.” He added that Hungary would cooperate with Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania to increase diversification through joint infrastructure developments.

“I asked the commissioner to treat this as a European issue … Brussels keeps pushing members to buy gas from sources different from the ones we have had; but we know that gas purchases require not only gas but pipelines too,” he said.

Szijjarto slammed Croatia’s oil company for turning down a Hungarian offer for a long-term purchase deal, adding that FINA “is exploiting the war situation and charging many times the transit fee for oil supplies through the Adria pipeline”. He added that Croatia “has done nothing” to boost the pipeline’s capacity, despite repeated pledges to do so.

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