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EU Peace Facility top-up adopted with Hungarian constructive abstention, minister says

EU foreign affairs ministers agreed on Monday to top up the European Peace Facility with 5 billion euros in connection with funding for Ukraine, a decision made with Hungary's constructive abstention, Peter Szijjarto, the foreign minister, said on the sidelines of a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council.
18. March 2024 17:21

EU member states can abstain from voting on a particular action without blocking it.

The minister said “the price” of Hungary’s agreement not to block the top-up was a change in the rules to exempt Hungary from involvement in financing arms deliveries.

“This means that we have to pay our share of 50 million euros, but we can determine the purpose of its use,” he stated.

He added that several important goals could be discussed in light of this, such as strengthening the stability of the Sahel region with a view to combatting migration and supporting the Western Balkans.

Szijjarto lamented that EU leaders “did not grasp that the EU’s Ukraine strategy has failed.” The cause of that reluctance could be that such a recognition could bring up the issue of taking responsibility for the damages Europe has incurred.”

Referring to statements made earlier in the week concerning the possibility of deploying European troops to Ukraine, Szijjarto appealed to western European politicians to abstain from such statements, calling them “extremely dangerous and fear-mongering”.

Noting that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also joined part of the meeting via video call, Szijjarto said he had reminded his colleagues of an earlier NATO decision that “everything must be done to avoid direct confrontation with Russia”.

“Western and eastern European statements that don’t exclude deploying troops … are in clear violation of that joint NATO decision,” he said, adding that no member had initiated a review of that decision.

“I expressed my hope to the US secretary of state that NATO will never send troops” to Ukraine, he said.

Increasingly militant statements from the EU or its member states would only make the situation worse, “summoning the spectre of a third world war,” he said.

“An EU state sending ground troops to Ukraine would envelope the entire continent in conflagration… We are of the view that this is a grave violation of Article 5, as NATO is a defence alliance,” he said.

As Ukraine’s neighbour, Hungary has experienced the consequences of the war first-hand, he said. “Besides the inflow of refugees, our agriculture was nearly brought to its knees by low-quality Ukrainian grain flooding central Europe,” he said.

As Polish farmers blocked the roads from Ukraine to that country protesting against the grain glut, much of the freight traffic was re-routed to Hungary, increasing waiting times the and work load on the Hungarian-Ukrainian border, he said.

On the border at Fenyeslitke, Hungary has set up the largest transfer facility for Ukrainian cargo in international comparison, “only the European liberal mainstream continues to forget” such achievements, he said.

With a view to easing the pressure on the border, Szijjarto noted he had talks with Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, at the weekend, and they agreed to open another border crossing between Nagyhodos in Hungary and Velyka Palad’ (Nagypalad) in Ukraine, and to further develop the crossing in Beregsurany.

“If there is a country constantly facing the tragic consequences of the war … and taking on its burderns, and has the greatest interest in swiftly bringing about peace, it is Hungary,” he said.

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