Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: Government strives for strong intelligence service

Because Hungary wants to be among the winners of the emerging new global era, the government wants a intelligence service that is strong in European terms and central Europe's strongest, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Thursday.

In a briefing to parliament’s national security committee, Szijjarto said the pandemic, its effects on the economy and changes on the international political scene had “fundamentally disrupted the status quo in every area”. This, the minister said, had left countries jostling for position to be among the winners of the new era of the global economy and global politics.

Whenever the status quo is disrupted, the ability of countries to enforce their interests becomes all the more significant, Szijjarto said. In such times of change the use of covert techniques becomes more important than under normal circumstances, as do intelligence services, he added.

As regards the appointment of Zsolt Bunford to head the Information Office (IH), Hungary’s civilian intelligence agency focused on intelligence gathering operations primarily abroad, Szijjarto said Bunford was expected to devote special attention to protecting the country’s sovereignty and expanding its room for manoeuvre. Another important aim, he said, was for the IH to allocate more resources towards boosting Hungary’s competitiveness and attracting more foreign investments.

Szijjarto said the IH had gathered 60 percent more data over the past year than the preceding period, even though it was hampered by pandemic restrictions. The office, he added, had also made progress in its cooperation with its foreign partners.

Asked by the Socialist Party’s Zsolt Molnar about the situation of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine’s Transcarpathia region, Szijjarto said that despite the government’s efforts, their situation was unchanged. Though Kiev at high-level meetings regularly promises to treat ethnic Hungarians better, these promises are usually followed by adverse measures on their part, he said.

Asked by Democratic Coalition MP Agnes Vadai about the Pegasus spyware case, the minister said the IH had not purchased or operated the software, and it was not engaged in talks to buy it, either.

Asked about press reports citing the foreign ministry as having confirmed that it had issued a visa to an ally of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Szijjarto said visas were issued by consuls according to a specific bureaucratic process in which it would be “very difficult” to interfere politically.

Asked by Jobbik’s Janos Stummer and LMP’s Peter Ungar if he expected to see foreign meddling in next year’s general election, Szijjarto said certain countries were engaging in activities that could be interpreted as an attempt to interfere in Hungary’s internal affairs. He said one embassy in particular was inviting bids to support a publication with clear political leanings, while embassies of other countries ran Facebook pages aimed at criticising the Hungarian government’s policies.

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