FM: Hungary and Cyprus reject dividing the EU

Minister Szijjártó said the economy and security of the bloc were “worse than after the coronavirus pandemic”.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said Hungary and Cyprus “will never accept the European Union being divided into first- and second-class member states,” adding that the two countries “firmly oppose scrapping unanimous decision-making” in the EU.

At a press conference held jointly with his Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos in Nicosia, Minister Szijjártó said the economy and security of the bloc were “worse than after the coronavirus pandemic”, and European competitiveness was waning, the war in Ukraine was at risk of escalation, while illegal migration was also causing difficulties. Hopefully, the upcoming European parliamentary elections would bring about changes, he said, “with the bloc turning in the right direction and the peace camp gaining in strength”. The Hungarian government urges peace as soon as possible, Szijjártó said, adding that its position, however, was “not in the mainstream and not supported by a majority”. Hungary refuses to send weapons to Ukraine and “sharply opposes declarations concerning the possibility of sending Western troops”, he said. Those “promoting the peace camp’s position are stigmatised” and “there is an extremely small room for a sober dialogue” on the matter, he said, adding that “similarly, there has been no opportunity for a meaningful debate concerning some kind of compensation for member states seriously impacted by the sanctions against Russia.”

Concerning the proposed scrapping of unanimous EU decision-making, Szijjártó said: “We will never accept a situation in which the big countries could make decisions on issues also impacting us, leaving us the only possibility to say ‘yes, sir’.” The EU’s Hungarian presidency in the second half of the year will aim “to stop a further weakening of the community”, he said, adding that “a strong Europe requires strong members.” The EU needs “new momentum and energy, which can only come from the outside; the government, therefore, will have the promotion of the integration of the Western Balkans high on its agenda,” he said, adding, however, that some countries should not be granted a “fast-track” procedure on a political basis; “each candidate must be assessed on their actual merits.” The Western Balkan states deserve to be treated fairly, he said, adding that Hungary and Cyprus will join forces to promote the issue. The Hungarian presidency will also place increased focus on the fight against illegal migration, Szijjártó said. “The government considers migration as a danger rather than an opportunity,” he said, adding that “migration must be stemmed rather than managed”. Szijjártó welcomed that, like Hungary, “Cyprus always promotes its national interests in the EU”, and noted a regular political coordination between the two countries.

Concerning the economy, Minister Szijjártó pointed to tourism as a fast-developing sector and said over 66,000 Hungarians had visited Cyprus in 2023, up by 31% from the previous year. Bilateral trade turnover is above 100 million euros, Szijjártó noted, adding that energy offered further opportunities for cooperation, especially when it came to new resources in Cyprus. Szijjártó also mentioned that Hungary had sent troops to the United Nations peacekeeping mission (UNFICYP), “thus contributing to peace and stability”. Meanwhile, the minister noted that Hungary has reopened its embassy in Cyprus, “which is a clear sign of the Hungarian government’s appreciation of continuously developing bilateral ties”. Speaking at the inauguration ceremony in Nicosia, the minister called bilateral relations “a success story” backed by economic cooperation. He noted bilateral trade turnover of over 100 million euros, up 28 % year on year based on the latest statistics, adding that Hungary’s exports to Cyprus increased 2.5-fold in the past 10 years. Noting Cyprus’s Hungarian expatriate community of nearly 4,000, the large number of Hungarian tourists, Hungary’s presence in the United Nations peacekeeping mission, as well as economic cooperation, the Hungarian government decided to reopen the country’s foreign mission and developing diplomatic services, the minister said. It is crucial to provide the best possible services to Hungarian tourists and Hungarians living in Cyprus, Szijjártó said, adding that “a personal diplomatic presence could also be key to further improve diplomatic ties.” “I hope the embassy will clearly demonstrate how important the Hungarian side considers ties with Cyprus,” Szijjártó said. “The Hungarian government is committed to writing further chapters of the success story of the two countries,” he said.