Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: Parliament to decide on Swedish NATO membership in autumn

Hungary's parliament is slated to decide on ratifying Sweden's accession to NATO this autumn, as the government submitted the relevant documents earlier this year, the foreign minister told Turkish channel TRT World on Monday.
29. August 2023 7:39

Attempts to resolve disputes with Stockholm have failed so far, he said in the interview, adding that Hungary had become “a target and a victim of this political dispute”, and on the receiving end of interference in its domestic politics.

As an ally of Turkiye, Hungary has regularly consulted on Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, he said. While Hungary “does not want to become the obstacle in the way of Swedish NATO membership”, it also considers Turkiye’s interests, because defence alliances must be based on trust, he said.

Regarding the war in Ukraine, Szijjarto said Hungary was in a “singular situation”: some 150,000 Hungarians live in Ukraine, many of whom had been drafted into the Ukrainian army and lost their lives, he said.

Hungary urges an immediate ceasefire and peace talks, and refuses to allow weapons deliveries to Ukraine through its territory, he said. The sooner the war ends, the fewer Ukrainians and Ukrainian Hungarians will die, he said.

As a country which time and again had to fight for its freedom, Hungary respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty “unconditionally”, he said. It is also supporting some 1 million refugees who have arrived since the start of the war, he said. Some 1,300 kindergartens and schools have accepted Ukrainian children, and the government is providing health care while working to offer jobs too, he said.

Accordingly, Hungary expects Ukraine to restore the rights of its Hungarian minority as they were in 2015 regarding the use of the mother tongue, culture and administration, he said.

If Ukraine aspires to become a member of the EU, it must accept its values, he said.

Szijjarto said it was regrettable that Russia had backed out of the grain export deal earlier this month, despite efforts by Turkiye and “personally President Erdogan” to keep the deal afloat.

Hungary has always kept solidarity corridors open, contributing to Ukrainian grain being delivered to African and Middle Eastern countries, he said.

Some of the grain, however, “remained in Hungary” rather than being transported to the countries in need, he said, adding that a glut of cheap Ukrainian grain threatened to ruin Hungarian farmers and markets. The transit routes to other countries remain open during a ban on the trade of Ukrainian grain products in Hungary, he said.

Regarding Hungary’s energy security, Szijjarto highlighted the importance of the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline project. Hungary has helped to build the TurkStream pipeline — alongside Russia, Turkiye, Bulgaria and Serbia — which is now capable of delivering 8.5 billion cubic meters of gas to Hungary, he said.

Hungary started diversifying its energy resources long before the war in Ukraine started, he said. Besides Russia, the most important players to provide Hungary’s energy mix will be Turkiye, Azerbaijan and Qatar, he said.

Under the latest agreement with Turkish gas company BOTAS, Hungary will receive nearly 300 million cubic meters of gas next year, he said.

Since Qatar’s order book is full until 2026, negotiations between Hungary and Qatari companies have already started on the purchase of gas in 2027, he added.

The delivery of Qatari and Azeri gas would require significant developments in regional infrastructure, but the EU is dragging its feet on providing funding, he said. Instead, regional states like Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Greece and Turkiye have started negotiations to enable large deliveries, he said.

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