Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said it is unfair to accuse Hungary of being pro-Russian, adding that no one could lecture Hungary on history and freedom because Hungarians knew full well what it was like to live under oppression “unlike those who haven’t experienced this”.
Addressing a panel discussion on the future of the Visegrad cooperation at the Economic Forum in Karpacz, in Poland, Minister Szijjártó expressed criticism of those who he said accused Hungary of being “pro-Russia” and “Putin-friendly”, saying: “I don’t have to explain it here in Poland to the Polish that perception does not always equal reality.” Hungary had to fight for its freedom and received no help in 1956 despite Radio Free Europe announcing at the time that the country would get support from the United States, he said, according to a ministry statement. The ones trying to lecture Hungary on history, freedom, the Soviet Union and communist oppression today are those who never experienced it, the minister said. He said it was unfair to accuse Hungary of being “pro-Russian”, arguing that it was the physical reality and the existing infrastructure that determined Hungary’s energy supply, and the European Union was not doing anything the develop alternative delivery routes. “Okay, I’ll cut the gas contract with Russia, fine, we don’t buy the gas from Russia. And then what happens tomorrow?” Szijjártó said. “Who will explain it to the Hungarian people?” “The same with the nuclear … fine, we’ll cut the contract with Russia, no problem. Who is the one to stand here and say that I’ll replace this 2,400MW for you, same price, same schedule?” he said. Hungary’s government is working to diversify its natural gas resources, but the capacity of the energy infrastructure in southeast Europe is very limited and the EU does not want to finance its development, Szijjártó said. Similarly, 85% of Hungary’s oil consumption is covered from Russian sources, but the Croatian authorities have increased the transit fee five-fold via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, the only alternative route, and no one in Europe is protesting this, he added. Meanwhile, Szijjártó said the United States had purchased twice as much uranium from Russia in the first half of this year as during the whole of last year.
On the subject of the Visegrad Group cooperation, Minister Szijjártó said the grouping was still a strategic focus of Hungarian foreign policy, as the central European countries had a better chance of overcoming difficult circumstances if they were united. The Visegrad cooperation has made achievements in recent years that have served the interests of not just Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, but the whole of Europe, he said. Szijjártó argued that if the four countries had not presented a united front against Europe’s planned mandatory migrant quotas, the continent would be full of illegal migrants waiting to be distributed. He also noted that the Czech, Polish and Hungarian militaries were cooperating in policing Slovakia’s airspace and that the other three countries had assisted Hungary with its border protection efforts when migration pressure peaked. The V4 has also contributed significantly to getting enlargement on the EU’s agenda, he said, arguing that they were united in their support for the EU integration of the Western Balkan countries, unlike several Western European leaders, who he said only supported it in public. Given that the V4 comprises four sovereign countries, they will never be in 100% agreement on the various issues, and it is natural to have “ups and downs” in relations due to disagreements, Szijjártó said, adding, however, that the countries had always been capable of separating these disagreements from other aspects of their cooperation on which they were united. Concerning the V4’s economic weight, he said the combined GDP of the four countries would put them in 14th place in the global ranking, adding that trade between Germany and the V4 was double the trade volume between Germany and France. Szijjártó welcomed that the current Czech V4 presidency sought to focus on practical accomplishments, pointing out that central Europe would be willing to purchase natural gas from Qatar, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, though the southeast European energy infrastructure did not have the capacity for this and needed to be developed.
Photo credit: Facebook/Szijjártó Péter