Ukraine Reform Conference in London – Hungary committed supporter of Ukraine reforms
Hungary is a “firm and committed” supporter of Ukraine’s reforms not only because Ukraine is a neighbour but also considering the welfare of the ethnic Hungarian community there, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Thursday.
Speaking in London on the sidelines of a conference organised by the British and Ukrainian governments, Szijjártó said it was “unsportsmanlike” for the European Union to have kept Ukraine waiting to receive visa-free status and to start accession talks.
He agreed with his Ukrainian counterpart to set up a working group to define infrastructure development projects. He noted that the Hungarian government has set aside 50 million dollars to provide loans to promote such projects.
The Hungarian government is concerned about Ukrainian draft legislation concerning three areas which would significantly harm the situation of the country’s ethnic minorities: dual citizenship, the fundamental right to be taught in their native language and to communicate in the mother tongue.
Hungary finds the restrictive measures unacceptable and they would also violate European norms, he said, adding that he had asked Ukrainian government officials to block the measures in parliament. “We will gladly continue to help Ukraine, but our future relations would no doubt be determined in large part by these unacceptable amendments,” Szijjártó said, adding that the Ukrainian government had promised to maintain rational dialogue with Hungary.
Szijjártó also held talks with British finance minister Philip Hammond and Brexit minister David Davis.
Hungary is interested in a fair Brexit deal between the EU and the UK that benefits both sides, he said, adding that barriers to trade and economic ties would also hurt the Hungarian economy. Hungary’s interests lie in the two sides striking a broad free trade agreement and a deal that allows them to forge a new strategic partnership. The EU and the UK should strike a deal that guarantees reciprocal rights for each other’s citizens, he added.
Szijjártó warned against any desire for “revenge” on the part of the EU, as this would prevent an EU-UK free trade deal and hurt the EU’s competitiveness.