Dutch government disavows remarks of outgoing ambassador, denounces as “wrong”

“Clearly, the measures taken by the Hungarian government have no connection whatsoever with terrorism. Any such suggestion,” Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders said, is wrong, and I would like to disavow such claims.”

The minister’s statement couldn’t have been clearer. It came in response to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó’s announcement on Friday that he had summoned home the Hungarian ambassador to the Hague, temporarily suspending diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level with the Netherlands, following publication of a scandalous interview in the Hungarian press with the Hague’s outgoing ambassador to Budapest.

In the interview, Ambassador Gajus Scheltema, compared the actions of the Hungarian government to the motivations and methods of Islamic terrorist groups, asserting that radical religious fanatics “construct a hostile image just like the Hungarian government does”.

Recalling an ambassador in this manner “is one of the most radical measures in diplomacy,” Minister Szijjártó said on Friday.

The minister made it clear that Hungary will receive a new ambassador from the Netherlands only if the Hague apologizes publicly for Scheltema’s disrespectful comments. “We won’t be content with a ‘behind-closed-doors’ explanation”, the minister said, raising the question of whether the outgoing ambassador was acting on orders from the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs when he made his remarks.

Minister Szijjártó also rejected in the strongest possible terms the comparison of the Hungarian government to Islamic terrorist groups. “This is an accusation that nobody would have dared to make even during the conflicts of 2015,” he said.

 “Hungary is not a punching bag,” the minister said. Once upon a time, he added, “there might have been a ‘policy of submission’ in Hungary, there no longer is”.