“Only peace can offer a solution to all aspects of the tragic situation” that developed as a consequence of the war in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told an event organised by Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC) in Esztergom on Saturday.
Szijjártó told MCC Feszt in a speech broadcast on Facebook that the war had a profound effect on the maneuvering space, the domestic policy and the foreign policy of every country, including Hungary. Hungary condemns military aggression and “stands on the side” of the victims, also supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity, he added.
At the same time, Szijjártó said the Hungarian government had the greatest responsibility for the Hungarian people and must by all means prevent the country from getting involved in the war. The cabinet must not allow Hungarian people getting forced to pay for the price of the war, he added.
Relations with Russia must be maintained even in the current situation partly because the vicinity of Russia is a reality in central Europe and also because cutting communications channels would only hinder the possibility of finding a diplomatic settlement, he said. In the long term, only a Russian-American agreement could guarantee the end of the war, he added.
Szijjártó said that energy supplies were not an ideological-philosophical matter but “hardcore physical reality”. Europe’s annual natural gas demand is 170 billion cubic metres and within that Hungary’s demand is 8.5 billion cubic metres a year, he said. Acquiring this volume is impossible without the involvement of Russian energy sources, he added.
Szijjártó said his response to opposition journalists accusing him of being friendly with Russia was “what are we going to use for heating in the winter if I don’t buy gas from the Russians”?
He said that Hungarian gas storage capacities were 30 percent full which was better than the European average but the cabinet must buy an additional 732 million cubic metres of gas. Szijjártó added that “Hungary will have no problem with natural gas supplies in the winter”.
Hungary is getting 89 percent of the contracted volume of gas thanks to the fact that three-quarters arrive from Serbia and only one quarter from Austria. From the southern direction, Hungary will receive “every molecule” of gas, he added.
Szijjártó condemned the European Union’s sanctions policy, saying that it had caused more harm to European countries than to Russia.
He reiterated that instead of sanctions, the EU should be focusing on peace and welcomed recent talks between the American and the Russian foreign ministers. Szijjártó criticised plans for the EU’s common foreign policy to change the rule that instead of unanimity, majority support should be sufficient.
Commenting on Hungary’s refusal to support the introduction of a global minimum tax, he said that by introducing it “Europe would kill off its own continental economy and take away Hungary’s advantage in the competition”. He added that tax policy belonged to national competence and “we must not allow” impairing this.
Commenting on Transcarpathia, he said the issue of past Ukrainian decisions that had a negative effect on the ethnic Hungarian community and were condemned by Hungary has been put on hold during the war. Hungary must continue supporting Transcarpathia and Ukraine as a whole, he added. He noted that 860,000 refugees had arrived from Ukraine so far in the largest humanitarian scheme in Hungarian history and praised good relations with the governor of Transcarpathia Viktor Mikita.
Commenting on Hungarian-US relations, he said relations were always qualitatively different between Hungary and the US when the latter had a Republican president. Relations were best during the presidency of Donald Trump, he said and added that the Republican majority victory expected at the US midterm election in November will bring a new era in bilateral relations.
He expressed resentment about remarks by US ambassador nominee David Pressman made at his hearing in front of Senate stating that democracy was in decline in Hungary.