Foreign minister: Eastern partnership countries deserve positive feedback
The European Union should give continuous positive feedback to Eastern Partnership countries, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told leaders of the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries at a summit in Brussels on Friday. Pursuing cooperation with these countries is in the political, economic, energy and security interests of the bloc, he said.
At a press conference, Szijjártó said Hungary’s position is that the EU can only regain its strength and competitiveness if it “gets as many allies, strategic partners and friends as possible”. Hungary strongly supports the enlargement process, as “the more countries there are in the EU, the stronger the bloc will be”.
“Hungary has always advocated an ambitious Eastern Partnership programme encouraging participants in their aspirations,” Szijjártó said, adding that with no positive feedback, “political forces with a European direction” will lose support and credibility in eastern Europe. That is why, he said, Hungary supports the EU’s association and no-visa agreements with Georgia and Moldova. Hungary supports talks with Azerbaijan aimed at a framework agreement, as well as lifting the EU’s sanctions against Belarus, Szijjártó said. Hungary also supports the EU’s renewed partnership agreement with Armenia, he added.
Answering a question, Szijjártó denied allegations that he would replace János Lázár as head of the government office. He also dismissed suggestions that his ministry of foreign affairs and trade could be split after next year’s elections.
Meanwhile, on the topic of Ukraine and its education law, Szijjártó said
Hungary would not “sacrifice” ethnic Hungarians living in western Ukraine “on the altar of world politics”.
Any attempt to place the Hungarian government’s position on Ukraine in a misguided geopolitical context will be resisted, he told the press conference.
Ukraine is in a decision-making position, he said, because if it truly cares about European and Euro-Atlantic integration, it must fulfil its international obligations. The country must revoke its education law that violates the rights of minorities, the minister said, adding it could count on Hungary’s staunch support as soon as it remedies the situation.
Szijjártó insisted that Ukraine’s education law was not an issue between Hungary and Ukraine but posed a European problem. Friday’s summit, he added, adopted a joint declaration in which participants urged that acquired rights of ethnic minorities should be enforced in line with decisions and conventions by the United Nations and the Council of Europe. It must be ensured that there is no discrimination against ethnics and decisions by the Council of Europe are fully implemented, Szijjártó added.
The closing document of the summit opens a new chapter, Szijjártó said, as it reflects the EU’s “unanimous support for upholding ethnic minorities’ acquired education rights”. He also pointed out that “Ukraine had no choice but accept the document”, but added that the Ukrainian government had made it clear that they would not follow recommendations by the Venice Commission should they find those suggestions unfavourable.
Featured image: MTI