Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: MTI

Szijjarto: April 3 election ‘historic’

Hungary had a "historic" election on April 3, and "when we decide about the future for the whole nation, each member should be given the opportunity to participate in the process", Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in Lendava (Lendva), in northeastern Slovenia, on Friday.

Szijjarto held a joint press conference with local ethnic Hungarian leader Ferenc Horvath and said the outcome of the vote, “held at a time of war”, was crucial not only for the Hungarians living in the country but for the entire nation.

Hungarians beyond the borders cast a record 308,000 mail-in votes at the election, he said. In Medimurje, the northeast Slovenian region with an ethnic Hungarian community, the number of votes grew by 40 percent compared with the last election to 168, he said.

Hungary will continue its regional development programme, which has so far granted a total of 2.5 billion forints (EUR 6.6m) to 651 entrepreneurs in the region, supporting investments worth 3.7 billion forints, he said.

A Hungarian-Slovenian regional development fund, which the heads of government signed earlier this year, will start operating in May. Within that framework, Hungary will pay a further 5 million euros to support the region, he said.

Meanwhile, economic cooperation between the two countries jumped 14 percent last year, to nearly 3 billion euros, he said.

Szijjarto congratulated Horvath, who won a preferential minority seat in the Slovenian parliament at Sunday’s election. Horvath thanked Hungary for its support during the coronavirus pandemic and in preserving the culture of Medimurje Hungarians.

Regarding Hungary’s decision to pay in roubles for Russian gas following EU sanctions due to the Ukraine-Russia war, Szijjarto slammed the “international mainstream media”, which he said reported the issue “with a gross and outrageous distortion.” The majority of Western European companies importing gas to the EU pay for Russian natural gas according to the requests of the Russian state and the supplier, he said.

Companies importing natural gas from Russia open accounts at Gazprom Bank, which is not subject to the sanctions, he said. On the company’s instructions, Gazprom Bank converts their euros to roubles and pays for the gas, he said.

“It is not true that others have rejected this, they are just less open about it,” he said, calling on the media to stop casting the transaction as if Hungary had violated a joint European stance by agreeing to it.

“We can have a political discussion about needing other energy resources and about the importance of independence from Russian natural gas, but we cannot buy gas on an ideological or philosophical basis, it is a physical process,” he said.

Ensuring Hungary’s energy security is a priority for the government, and Hungary is dependent on Russia for “physical, geographical and infrastructural reasons”, he said.

“If we could import from elsewhere, we would do so, but that would require discovering new gas fields and building new pipelines,” he said. “We cannot heat flats with political statements,” he added.

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