The foreign minister said Hungary and France both want peace in Ukraine, but differ on the tactical steps that could make it happen.
After meeting his French counterpart, Catherine Colonna, in Paris on Tuesday, Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said that as a neighbor of Ukraine, Hungary is confronted by the dramatic effects of the armed conflict on a daily basis, and its interests, therefore, lie in an immediate ceasefire and peace talks. France’s position on this differs from that of Hungary the way almost every other European country’s position differs from Hungary’s, Minister Szijjártó said, adding that there was an expectation that Ukraine may eventually be in a better position in the war to conduct negotiations. “We don’t believe in this; we think that it is time to end the suffering of the people,” he said. Minister Szijjártó said he and Colonna were in agreement on almost every other strategic non-European Union issue. One example, he said, was the matter of nuclear energy. He noted that both Hungary and France had successfully pushed the EU to label nuclear energy as sustainable. Minister Szijjártó noted that the control system for the new reactor blocks of Hungary’s Paks nuclear power plant is being supplied by a German-French consortium, and whereas Paris had approved the necessary permits for the system, Berlin had yet to do so. He said it was regrettable that certain German ministers were blocking the participation of Siemens Energy in the Paks upgrade project. He added that every country determined its energy mix in accordance with its national interests. “The Germans are now questioning this right and by … blocking the permit, they are endangering our long-term energy security, which is unacceptable,” Szijjártó said. He said plans were being devised with Siemens Energy’s French partner, Framatome, to prevent delays in the project in case the German government sticks to its position. Minister Szijjártó also touched on security in Africa, saying Budapest and Paris were in agreement that the starting point for Europe’s security was in Africa. “The protection of Europe, the fight against terrorism and the prevention of migration start in Africa,” he said. Hungary is prepared to undertake joint military missions with France as it already has in Mali, he added. He also noted France’s participation in Hungary’s space programme. Meanwhile, he said French companies were the fifth largest investor community in Hungary, adding that bilateral trade turnover had reached a record high last year, exceeding 10 billion euros.