Following a two-day meeting between NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjárto on Wednesday told members of the press that Hungary does not see Russia as a direct security threat to its territory, although it understands and respects that other NATO members feel differently in this regard.
During his statements, which were mostly directed at the Hungarian press, the foreign minister reaffirmed the Hungarian government’s staunch commitment to NATO, noting that as a loyal ally, Hungary has contributed to strengthening NATO’s actions along Europe’s eastern flank while it continues to help reinforce the security of Baltic States, the Hungarian news portal Index reports.
Szijjártó also noted that while Hungary has remained steadfastly loyal to its allies, it expects the same sentiment from its allies when the rights of Ukraine’s ethnic Hungarian community are “systematically and grossly violated”.
The foreign minister deemed it absolutely unacceptable that the Hungarian community in western Ukraine enjoyed more rights in Soviet times in several areas than current legislation provides.
“For us, national communities are the heart and soul of foreign policy. We will always stand up for the rights of the Hungarian national communities, completely independent of the number of these communities,” he said.
Szijjártó strongly emphasized that Hungary cannot accept that ethnic minority issues should be viewed as bilateral affairs, noting that international standards and NATO agreements specify the obligation of to respect the rights of national minorities.
The minister of foreign affairs and trade added that at the same time, Hungary would never reference the Russian presence in Ukraine as an excuse for the violation of Hungarian minority rights.
“Hungarians in Transcarpathia cannot comment on what is happening in the Eastern part of Ukraine,” the minister said.
The minister then pointed out that Hungary expects its allies to make it clear to Ukraine that the fulfillment of previous commitments to respect the rights of minorities must be a precondition for closer cooperation with NATO.
With regard to Central Europe’s supply of energy, Szijjártó emphasized that in order for the countries in question to purchase gas from new sources, then new supply routes and new infrastructure would have to be created, and that companies involved would need to avoid viewing the project only from a financial point of view, but also look at the strategic element as well.
The minister expressed deep hope that all lines of communication would remain open with Russia so that countries — especially those in the immediate region — remain open to cooperating on crucial issues, and that the events in the upcoming period would not be determined by confrontations between the East and West.
“We, Central Europeans have a vested interest in a civilized and calm East-West dialogue based on mutual respect,” the foreign minister said.
Responding to a question regarding Hungary’s choice to break with European Union orthodoxy and procure COVID-19 vaccines from Russia and China, Sziijártó replied that the decision was purely a pragmatic one meant to save as many lives as possible, and was never ideologically motivated.
“It is time for everyone to stop anti-vaccination, ideologically based propaganda, both domestically and internationally,” he told reporters.