Foreign minister highlights Central European challenges in UN General Assembly address
Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó highlighted the challenges facing central Europe in his address to the general debate of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday.
Among the challenges facing the region, the minister mentioned illegal migration, the growing threat of terrorism, the need to create a balanced form of cooperation between the East and the West as well as the protection of the rights of national minorities.
Szijjártó said Europe had not faced as many challenges as it does today since the second world war. The European Union is facing its gravest situation ever, he added. Terrorism has become a part of everyday life, he said, noting that Europe has suffered 30 major terrorist attacks since 2015 which claimed some three hundred lives.
The minister said these developments were the direct consequence of terrorist groups taking advantage of the mass influx of illegal migrants into Europe and what he said was the failure of earlier methods for social integration in western Europe which had led to the emergence of parallel societies.
Szijjártó called it shocking that after the “barbaric terrorist attacks in Europe”, the “massive violations in national and international laws and regulations” and thousands of people dying on the Mediterranean, the leaders of certain international organisations and representatives of powerful and influential countries still consider migration favourable. Szijjártó said such a position was “unacceptable” and “extremely irresponsible”.
“The position of Hungary is rather clear,” he said. “All states have their fundamental right and responsibility to guarantee security for their people”, to protect their own borders and to decide on their own who they allow to enter their territory, Szijjártó said.
He said Hungary had put in an “enormous effort” to comply with its obligations, adding that the country had so far spent some 800 million euros on protecting its borders. Hungary, by protecting its own borders, is also protecting the whole of the EU and the Schengen area, he insisted.
Szijjártó also said that as a Christian country, Hungary considered it a duty to help those in need, adding, at the same time, that this help should be provided at the point where it is needed. This is why Hungary helps Christian communities in the Middle East so that they can remain in their homeland or return after conflicts in the region end, he said.
Szijjártó also urged increased support to be provided to countries that cater for refugees near war-torn areas, such as Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. He added, however, that a complete and ultimate solution for the migration crisis would be tackling its root-causes, meaning ending the armed conflicts and eliminating terrorist organisations.
Elaborating on the issue of East-West relations, the minister stated the position that major international conflicts could only be resolved through an agreement between superpowers in the West and the East. He said a pragmatic cooperation between the East and the West was necessary in order to eliminate the most dangerous terrorist groups worldwide. Hungary is proud to contribute 200 troops to the fight against the Islamic State militant group, he said.
A pragmatic East-West cooperation is further needed to respond to “an extraordinary challenge posed by a communist dictator” threating the world with a nuclear programme, violating all possible international regulations and values, Szijjártó said, referring to the North Korean threat.
“We, central Europeans, have learnt the lesson of history, whenever there is a conflict between East and West, central Europe loses for sure. And we do not want to be losers anymore. That’s why we wish and urge for a better, more pragmatic relationship and cooperation between East and West, based on mutual trust, respect towards each other and towards international law,” he said.
Szijjártó also addressed the issue of national minority rights from a central European point of view, noting Hungary’s “sensitivity on this issue” given that millions of Hungarians live outside the country’s borders.
“The rights of national minorities must be respected by all members of the international community, and discrimination against any minority is simply unacceptable”, Szijjártó said. He called the right of national minorities to use their mother tongue and receive education in it one of the most important rights.
He noted in this context the adoption of a new education law by the Ukrainian parliament on September 5 which he said “drastically” curbs the already acquired minority rights in education and in language use.
“It is a shame that such kind of a legislation is being passed in the 21st century” in a country which is working hard to be integrated with the EU, he said.
The new law clearly violates UN conventions and international norms and would thus create “a very dangerous precedent if the UN does not act in this regard and remains silent”, Szijjártó said.
He said Hungary urges the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to open an investigation into the new Ukrainian law and use all means to address the “severe violation” of minority rights.
Featured image: MTI