Hungary laments the UK’s decision to leave the European Union as a “big political and economic loss” for the bloc, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó told the BBC’s Newsnight.
In the interview broadcast late on Thursday evening last week, the minister said the UK “had a very strong voice in the debate about the future of Europe and we were on the same side … this debate will now be unbalanced.” Brexit might also harm the EU’s competitiveness if Britain succeeds in concluding free trade agreements with countries the EU has no agreements with, Szijjártó said. Hungary promotes a “fair, and balanced Brexit” in which EU grievances should not have a role. Answering a question about Hungary’s ties with Russia, Szijjártó said that the relationship was a pragmatic one. Central Europeans cannot afford to ignore Russia, he said. Hungary also hopes that US President Donald Trump would establish a good relationship with Russia, he added.
Szijjártó was in London attending a conference on reforms in Ukraine. He also met several members of the British government and attended a business event.
“Visegrad cooperation stronger than ever”
On Sunday, Péter Szijjártó also gave an interview to Hungarian public radio and said that the Visegrad Group (V4) cooperation consisting of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia is stronger and more effective than ever before. The V4 “have a much more powerful and far-reaching voice” together than they would on their own, the minister told Kossuth Radio.
When it comes to the European Union’s decision-making process, the collective will of the four countries is now a factor that even western European countries must take notice of, he insisted. The timing of the alliance’s new-found strength is also right, Szijjartó said, arguing that the EU is facing historic challenges. The responses Europe gives to these challenges will fundamentally shape the future of Hungary and central Europe as a whole, the minister added. Szijjartó also said that a number of central European countries have expressed interest in joining the alliance or partnering with it. However, the V4 have decided that they would not expand the alliance, as having more countries could dampen the group’s effectiveness, he said.
Péter Szijjartó added, at the same time, that the group would maintain its V4 plus scheme aimed at establishing strong cooperation with other countries under Hungary’s presidency, too. As part of the scheme, V4 leaders recently held talks with Egypt’s president and the group will hold talks with Israel later this month, he said. On Monday, the foreign ministers of Croatia, Slovenia and Austria will attend a meeting of V4 foreign ministers, Szijjártó added.