A sovereign, strong and democratic Ukraine which provides opportunities to its citizens, including its ethnic Hungarian minority, is in Hungary’s national interest, Speaker of Parliament László Kövér said late on Tuesday.
The war between Russia and Ukraine has changed the world’s geopolitical map, Kövér told commercial broadcaster Inforadio. When the sanctions against Russia were first imposed it became increasingly clear that there were aspirations to cut Russia off Europe and the European Union both politically and economically by “lowering a new Iron Curtain”, the speaker said. These aspirations, he added, “aren’t necessarily initiated by Europe, but the European political elite, for some reason, has become an enthusiastic supporter of them”.
Kövér said this meant that the vast economic and political cooperation based on mutual interests which could have established a unified Eurasia stretching from Portugal to Southeast Asia “seems to be failing at the moment”. He said Russia could not be absolved of the accusation of aggression either on the basis of international law or moral rules. “The one who fires the first shot is fundamentally the one that is responsible,” he added.
Kövér added, at the same time, that the West had also made a strategic error by trying to pull Ukraine away from Russia’s sphere of influence and turn the country into a highly-populated armed base against Russia. The speaker said the West’s sanctions policy had hurt Europe a lot more than it had Russia. He added that central Europe should fight against becoming “the periphery of a North Atlantic empire” and should instead remain a “mediation zone”. He said the armed conflict should be brought to an end as soon as possible and be followed by the establishment of a new central European or European peace regime in which countries take each other’s security needs into consideration.
As regards Ukraine, Kövér said there was still much to do until the country could truly be considered for European Union membership. This is where Hungarians’ interests lie, so this has to be the aim, he said, adding that Ukraine had to reclaim its sovereignty within its internationally-defined borders, including Crimea.
This can only change with Ukraine’s consent, he said.
Concerning NATO, the speaker said the alliance was forced to be on the defensive and had to prepare for “the unlikely scenario” that Russia will expand the war to the territory of a NATO country. He praised NATO’s political and military leadership for their “wise course of action” to prevent the war from escalating.
On another subject, Kövér said there was a visible divide in central Europe between the Baltic States, Poland and Romania, which he said wanted to force Europe to permanently cut ties with Russia, and Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary “which are more pro-peace”. “We should sit down and discuss understanding each other’s positions,” he said.
Kövér said he would welcome if the Visegrád Group comprising Hungary, Czechia, Poland and Slovakia could return to the path they were on when the focus had been on their common interests and issues they agree on.
Concerning sanctions, he said a middle ground should be found, adding, however, that “it would’ve been best if we hadn’t gone down the path that already looked like a dead end.” He said if the best the Hungarian government could do was isolate Hungary from the effects of the most harmful sanctions, then the right thing to do was to focus on that and compromise whenever possible.
As regards the EU’s conditionality procedure, Kövér said Hungary had fulfilled all of the commitments it had agreed on with the European Commission. Further commitments will be passed in the spring legislative session, he added. Kövér also said parliament was set to approve Finland and Sweden’s NATO bids early in the spring session. Meanwhile, the speaker said he expects the end of the Russia-Ukraine war and its impacts to be the main issue of the 2024 European parliamentary elections.