Watch: Orbán Has Intense Chat with Zelensky, Szijjártó Meets Ukraine Counterpart

  • 12 Dec 2023 9:16 AM
  • Hungary Matters
Watch: Orbán Has Intense Chat with Zelensky, Szijjártó Meets Ukraine Counterpart
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met and exchanged a few words as suggested by photos and footage made at the inauguration ceremony of Javier Milei, Argentina’s new president, in Buenos Aires.

Asked by MTI, Bertalan Havasi, the prime minister’s press chief, quoted Orbán as telling Zelensky that “members of the European Union are in continuous talks” concerning the subject of Ukraine’s EU integration.

Szijjártó Meets Ukraine Counterpart

Péter Szijjártó, who met Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Brussels on Monday, said on Facebook that Hungary did not see its stance on Ukraine's EU accession bid as a tactical issue.

“For us this isn’t a tactical issue but a decision of historic proportions regarding the future of the entire European Union,” the foreign minister said, adding that the European Commission had no clue what effect Ukraine’s EU membership would have on the bloc.

‘It’s enough to think back to the intractable problems the Commission’s decision on grain transit and Ukraine scrapping the licensing requirement for lorries,” he said.

Szijjártó insisted, moreover, that the Commission had not prepared the ground for ensuring that Ukraine pursued mutually beneficial accession talks.

Referring to the restriction of the rights of the Hungarian national minority in Ukraine, he said “this cast a shadow on bilateral relations”, adding that Hungary demanded the restoration of conditions pertaining in 2015.

Szijjártó said, however, that whereas a meeting in person with Kuleba had not taken place since the outbreak of the war, they had kept in regular contact with the aim of improving Hungary-Ukraine ties.

Szijjártó: Hungary Won’t 'Give in To Pressure'

The Hungarian government will “continue to make its decisions in line with European and national values” and “will not give in to pressure from anyone, whether in the form of bribery or pledges,” Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Facebook.

Ahead of “historic meetings affecting Europe’s future” to be held in Brussels this week, Szijjártó said there were signs of “appalling political and media pressure”.

“The European political and media elite obviously mixes up completely different dimensions trying to resolve historical and strategic issues through tactical deals,” he said, but added “they will not succeed, obviously, we will not give our consent.”

Debates between foreign ministers of the EU and in the general affairs council will focus on Ukraine, he said, adding that “a large part of EU politicians seek to pass decisions that are largely unprepared for and lack a strategic consensus.”

Speaking at a press conference after a meeting of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, Szijjártó said Hungary was under “tremendous political and media pressure” to approve the start of EU accession talks with Ukraine “despite the situation not being suitable for this right now”.

According to a ministry statement, Szijjártó said the pressure on Hungary was “unacceptable”, and he vowed that the country would not give up its national interests or the right to make its own sovereign decisions. “We don’t accept being pressured, and we’ll also resist any attempts at blackmail…” Szijjártó said.

“And I’d like to make it clear that we continue to refuse to conflate historical-strategic and tactical dimensions.” “This is not a tactical position on our part,” he said, arguing that the question of when Ukraine could begin accession talks would have “serious historic consequences, too”.

The minister said any decision in connection with Ukraine’s potential accession talks could only be made after a preparatory phase, adding however that the conditions for these preparations were not in place. He said the European Commission’s assessment that Ukraine had met four of the seven pre-conditions for talks was incorrect. Hungary, he said, supported looking at mutually beneficial ways to enhance cooperation with Ukraine, adding that EU membership was not the only option.

Deciding on starting accession talks now would be “irresponsible”, Szijjártó said, arguing that it was impossible to know the effects of such a decision. He cited the effects of the EU’s resolutions on opening transit corridors for Ukrainian grain and exempting Ukrainian hauliers from seeking permits before entering bloc, saying the EU “could not salvage what was salvageable”.

Meanwhile, he said the Hungarian government had still not approved allocating an additional 500 million euros from the European Peace Facility for weapons deliveries to Ukraine, arguing that Kyiv’s list of international war sponsors still contained Hungarian entities and individuals, mainly linked to OTP Bank.

Asked to comment on Ukraine’s amended law on minorities, Szijjártó said Hungary and Transcarpathian ethnic Hungarian organisations would assess the legislation, adding it was already clear that it had failed not restore the rights minorities had been gradually stripped of since 2015.

Meanwhile, Szijjártó said that on Monday afternoon, he will meet his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, and Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for Euro-Atlantic integration.

Szijjártó: Hungary Repels Attacks Endangering Energy Supply

Hungary has staved off threats endangering its energy supply, having obtained exemptions to provisions in the new European Union sanctions package, Péter Szijjártó, the foreign minister, said in Brussels on Monday.

In the press conference held during the break of the European Union Foreign Affairs Council, which discussed the twelfth sanctions package against Russia, Hungary quashed a deadline for ending the exemption it has enjoyed to buy Russian crude oil through the Druzhba Pipeline.

Without the pipeline, Hungary and Slovakia would not be supplied adequately since Croatian transit capacity was too limited, he said. As well as defeating “this hostile step”, Hungary appeared to have secured the extension of the rule which expired on Dec 5 enabling Hungarian oil and gas company MOL to continue exporting refined Russian crude oil to the Czech and Croatian markets

Szijjártó said the sanctions package would not be vetoed if the important economic interest of Hungary were not undermined. “It appears that the European Commission has accepted this and the draft of the sanctions proposal will include it; we’ll see,” he said.

Further, all sanctions proposals relating to the nuclear industry were rejected, he said. Such proposals would have rendered the expansion of Hungary’s Paks nuclear power plant, which was crucial to the country’s energy security, impossible, he added.

Also, regarding financial transactions outside the European Union, the adoption of restrictions that would harm national interests were abandoned, he said, adding that the government did not support the addition of either Chinese or Turkish companies to the sanctions list.

MKI: No Basis for EU to Start Ukraine Accession Talks

It would be premature for the European Union to start accession talks with Ukraine, the Hungarian Institute for Foreign Affairs (MKI) said in a report.

Ahead of this week’s meeting of the European Council, MKI said Ukraine was not ready to join the EU, and the bloc had failed to say how its accession would work in practice politically and economically.

The European Commission had set conditions in four areas and none had been met, the MKI said, citing the issues of how judges are selected, the vetting of the country’s supreme judicial council, combatting money laundering and media freedom. Ukraine had failed to act against corruption and oligarchs, MKI said, adding that the treatment of the country’s national minorities still fell short of European norms.

Allowing a country without full control over its territory to join would bring the war to the bloc, its study added. Also, Ukraine’s economy is highly dependent on foreign aid, it said, and its accession would impose a sustained financial burden.

Ukraine would be unable to meet the requirements of price stability without huge foreign support to stabilise the Ukrainian currency, MKI added. Further, Ukraine’s expedited accession would discredit the EU in the eyes of the Western Balkan countries and the other candidate member states, the institute’s report said.

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