Alexandra Béni | Jan 18, 2019 | 0
US ambassador: I am truly saddened to see CEU leave
US Ambassador David B. Cornstein expressed satisfaction that Hungary and his country “have elevated the dialogue” in recent months, while ties have been friendly and worthy of two allies.
Speaking before parliament’s foreign affairs committee, the ambassador referred to the “deep bond” between the two countries, and said that “we’ve had our ups and downs, but as in any other healthy relationship, we’ve overcome those differences and emerged stronger and closer through honest and respectful dialogue”.
The ambassador said the question of NATO unity in respect of the situation in Ukraine was a priority for the US, which, he added, is committed to a democratic and free Ukraine.
“The United States has made it clear that our support for Ukraine is unbending. We are committed to the success of a stable, prosperous, democratic, and free Ukraine. We support Ukraine as it counters Russian aggression and adopts reforms to increase prosperity, security, and rule of law. It is vital that NATO support Ukraine in its Western aspirations,” he said.
He also emphasised the importance of energy security and defense cooperation.
Cornstein welcomed Hungary’s commitment to raise its defense spending by 2 percent of GDP by 2024 and he added that the US is ready to support Hungary’s ambitious defense modernisation plans.
“Our defense relationship is the envy of many nations, and now we are in the process of formalising this close relationship with the negotiation of a new Defense Cooperation Agreement. This agreement will bring us into the 21st century, and prepare us for new security challenges that we face together as Allies,” he said.
Regarding energy security, he said Hungary should find a way to diversify energy sources to reduce its dependence on Russia, and the US supports the planned the project to build an LPG terminal in Croatia and the construction of the Bulgarian-Romanian-Hungarian-Austrian (BRUA) gas corridor.
Another important goal, he said, was to strengthen trade and investment relations between the two countries. US companies consider the government to be very supportive, and the workforce is well trained and industrious, he added.
Meanwhile, referring to the Central European University‘s decision to move the bulk of its courses to Vienna, Cornstein said he was “truly saddened to see CEU leave” Budapest, saying its departure was “bad for Hungary”.
“Resolving this dispute was one of my top US priorities and was part of my daily discussions with Hungarian government counterparts at all levels,” he added.
Levente Magyar, parliamentary state secretary of foreign affairs, said bilateral ties were not burdened by any strategic disagreements and regular consultations would hopefully resolve any contentious issues.
He said ties had seen a substantive and qualitative change, with a return to dialogue based on mutual respect.
The US is still one of Hungary’s top trading partners, and the security relations have never been so intensive as they are today, he added.
In terms of NATO cooperation, no substantive unresolved issues are on the agenda, besides the issue of Ukraine, where, he noted, there was an “open attack” on national minorities there. “Dialogue has started … and there is a sense of an easing of tensions in bilateral relations,” he added.
In terms of energy security, Magyar said American and Hungarian interests coincided, and Hungary also believes it must make every effort to diversify its energy supplies.
Among strategic areas of bilateral cooperation Cornstein mentioned energy security and defence, and suggested that unity within NATO was crucial in terms of Ukraine.
Ambassador Cornstein said about Ukraine:
“We feel strongly, however, that as NATO allies the best way to promote reforms in Ukraine is by talking to Ukraine, not by blocking Ukrainian engagement with NATO. Ukraine – NATO engagement will help all Ukrainian citizens, including ethnic Hungarians. We need to keep the big picture in mind. Putin is not interested in national sovereignty. His vision is neoimperial. If Ukraine fails, Hungary will be on the front line of Russian aggression.” Read more news about Ukrainian issue HERE.
Read the original speech here.