FM: Pressure to satisfy expectations behind latest EU sanctions package

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said several member states “want to be seen as doing something”.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said the main driver behind the European Union’s latest sanctions package against Russia was that it felt under pressure to be seen to satisfy expectations.

Responding to questions at a press conference after a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, Minister Szijjártó said several member states “want to be seen as doing something”. Meanwhile, the minister noted that he will meet his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, and the head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak, in Uzhhorod (Ungvár) on Jan 29, and they will try to cover every difficult issue regarding their bilateral relations. One such aspect, he said, was Hungary’s continued refusal to back a new 500 million euro package from the European Peace Facility for weapons deliveries to Ukraine. “Here we said we’d be willing to consider supporting this aid if we got guarantees that Ukraine wouldn’t discriminate against Hungarian companies anymore, and didn’t cause them problems by pointlessly adding them to the list of international sponsors of war for no reason,” Minister Szijjártó said. “We’ll see if we can make progress in this matter on January 29.”

Concerning the start of Ukraine’s EU accession talks, Minister Szijjártó noted that Hungary’s position was that the European Council had made a “bad and harmful decision” in December, “for which our country wants to take no responsibility”. “And we will stick to that position,” he said. “Of course, we understand that they’re trying to discredit this position and put pressure on us, either by saying that the position isn’t tough enough, or with other things, but this doesn’t affect us.” As regards next week’s special EU summit, Szijjártó said Hungary “won’t be a partner in conflating unrelated things”. Meanwhile, the minister said his Israeli counterpart had also taken part in the Foreign Affairs Council’s discussion of the Middle East conflict, adding that several member states had expressed criticism of Israel as well as “positions that are very far from that of Hungary”. But he said the discussion had not been heated, and Israel’s foreign minister had emphasised the need for cooperation, standing up for his country’s national position.