FM: It's important to build mutual trust in Hungary-Ukraine relations

The foreign minister said the Hungarian government has taken further steps in recent weeks “so that we can again talk about mutual trust in Hungary-Ukraine relations.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said the Hungarian government has taken further steps in recent weeks “so that we can again talk about mutual trust in Hungary-Ukraine relations."

Minister Szijjártó mentioned, for example, changes to the interstate agreement on border crossing, adding that the changes would help eliminate “unfair” situations at the border between the two countries. “We are looking forward to tomorrow’s meeting of the Hungarian-Ukrainian education team with hope since the most important task is to restore the rights of the Hungarian community in Transcarpathia to education and the use of their mother tongue,” the minister said. Referring to an infrastructure development project at Fényeslitke crossing station, Minister Szijjártó said it would facilitate reloading an annual one million containers or three million tonnes of grain and cooking oil, which could “contribute to maintaining Ukraine’s exports to Europe”. In another Facebook entry, Minister Szijjártó mentioned Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, and said “we have set the goal to give new momentum to the cooperation between Hungary and Canada”. He noted Hungary’s upcoming European Union presidency and that Canada would be the rotating president of the G7 next year. “Our defence cooperation is an important pillar of Hungary’s security,” Szijjártó said and noted that Canada had provided training to Hungarian fighter pilots in recent years and that the Hungarian military had purchased its air defence radar systems partly from Canada. “Both countries are in the nuclear camp, with nuclear energy having an over 10% share [in total consumption] and we have agreed that we would exploit opportunities in research and development cooperation,” the minister said. Szijjártó also said Hungary’s exports to Canada, mainly food products, exceeded an annual 450 million dollars, adding that it was “a great record”. What's more, Hungary and Ukraine are expected to sign a border traffic agreement on Monday, paving the way to opening a new crossing between the two countries, the foreign minister said. Noting a meeting in Uzhorod (Ungvár) earlier this year, and the decision to set up a working group “to find a way to restore all rights of the Hungarian community they have been stripped of … since 2015,” Péter Szijjártó said on Facebook that “we sat down, virtually, in Budapest, Kyiv, Brussels and Uzhorod on Thursday to continue the work we started.” He said that at the meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitro Kuleba, and presidential office head Andriy Yirmak in January, “we put our expectations down in an 11-point list of steps necessary for … restoring the Hungarian ethnic community’s rights connected to preserving their identity and use of the mother tongue.” The border traffic agreement expanding capacity at the existing crossings and opening a new one “will provide a good baseline of trust” for that process, he added.

Finally, the education working group set up by the Hungarian and Ukrainian governments “has met once again but failed to bring positions closer,” the foreign minister said, adding that Hungary “insists that the rights of Ukraine’s Hungarian minority should be fully restored.” Speaking at a press conference after a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council, Péter Szijjártó said “the serious issue with Kyiv concerning the rights of the Hungarian community in Transcarpathia is still unresolved.” “We insist that Ukraine restore rights to the Hungarian community that they had nine years ago, guaranteeing … the preservation of their Hungarian identity,” Szijjártó said, adding that they should be able to use their mother tongue in educational and cultural settings, as well as in public administration and the media. “We cannot accept less. Our Ukrainian partners are aware of that, even if they sometimes pretend not to be,” Szijjártó said, adding that the Hungarian government had consistently promoted its position in the past nine years. The minister said it was “good news”, however, that the Hungary-Ukraine working group will resume meeting next week, with leaders of the two sides also meeting personally, which could “hopefully bring us closer to the reversal of the curbing of those rights… For now, it still seems far away, but the fact of talks being held at all should be considered good news.” The minister said that when NATO evaluates Ukraine’s progress, Hungary would “pay great attention to these aspects”. “When evaluating Ukraine’s performance we cannot overlook the fact that the Hungarian ethnic community in Transcarpathia has not yet been granted the rights it was earlier stripped of… Our allies must be aware of that. Hungary will insist at every international forum that the Trancarpathian community gets those rights back,” he said. Meanwhile, Szijjártó said protests and blockades staged by Polish farmers had rendered trade across the Ukraine-Poland border “practically impossible”, resulting in “pressure greater than ever” on Hungary’s border with Ukraine. “This creates unfair conditions: trucks leaving Ukraine often have to wait for 14-16 days before crossing, which poses a serious … difficulties for the Hungarian economy, as many Hungarian companies are dependent on trade between Hungary and Ukraine,” he said, calling for a reduction of waiting times. “I want to firmly state that [Hungary] is not importing agricultural produce; Hungary is maintaining its ban on Ukrainian grain … since protecting the interests of Hungarian farmers is a priority,” he said. Hungary’s ambassador to Ukraine will sign an agreement next Monday on opening a new crossing station between Nagyhódos in Hungary and Velyka Palad (Nagypalád) in Ukraine, Szijjártó said, adding that local Hungarians in Ukraine had a long-standing request for such a facility. Moreover, unloaded trucks will be given an opportunity to cross at Beregsurány, which will “reduce the problems of Hungarian companies relying on imports from Ukraine,” he added.