“The regular criticism of Hungarian democracy that occurred during the previous administration has to all intents and purposes ceased since President Donald Trump took office”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said in an interview for the Associated Press.
Hungary’s chief diplomat spoke to AP after taking part in an international conference against terrorism, which was attended by 66 foreign ministers from 66 countries and representatives of two international organisations. Further measures against the Islamic State terrorist organisation (ISIS) and terrorism in general were discussed at the one-day summit.
In the interview, Mr. Szijjártó said it was unfortunate that during the previous Obama administration American-Hungarian relations were “very bad”, adding that while American diplomats have so far regularly made false accusations against Hungary’s government for restricting the freedom of the press and the independence of judges and elections, the situation has since improved and President trump has made it clear that “exporting democracy” is no longer at the centre of American foreign policy.
“We are excitedly waiting to begin working jointly”, the Hungarian Foreign Minster stressed, recalling his conversation with his American counterpart Rex Tillerson and the telephone conversation between Donald Trump and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán last November, which was conducted in a positive tone.
On the subject of Wednesday’s anti-terrorism conference, Mr. Szijjártó said that Hungary is encouraged by the strategy President Trump has described, which is aimed “not only at the fight against the Islamic State, but at the total annihilation of ISIS”. He told the press that Hungary would be supporting these efforts by sending a further 50 troops to Iraq, thus increasing the Hungarian contingent in the country to 200.
The Foreign Minister also mentioned that the Hungarian Government was considering accelerating the 10-year plan currently in effect to increase defence spending to two percent of GDP in accordance with NATO requirements, and which President Trump also regards as vital.
“We fully agree with the President that Europe must do more”, Mr. Szijjártó said with regard to defence contributions. “We will comply fully with the requirements, which are absolutely justified”, he added.
The Hungarian Foreign Minister also confirmed his hope that the changes called for by the American President, including withdrawing some of the American and European Union sanctions imposed against Russia because of the 2014 annex of the Crimea, would be advantageous for Hungary.
“We are calling for an open, emotion-free and rational discussion and evaluation of the sanctions”, the Minister noted, adding that Hungary has lost 6.5 billion dollars in exports over the past three years as a result of the Russian sanctions. However, Mr. Szijjártó reiterated the Government’s standpoint according to which Hungary will not break European unity if it is the only Member State of the European Union that would like to end the sanctions and restore economic relations with Moscow.
(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)