Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó took part in the 72nd summit of the United Nations in New York early this week where he held talks with his Romanian and Croatian counterparts, hvg.hu reports. Szijjártó reportedly struck a confrontational tone during the meetings by emphasizing that Hungary would not support Romania or Croatia’s accession into the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
“We will endure to the end, and won’t allow neighboring countries to continually make decisions that affect Hungarians,” Szijjártó told state news service MTI, adding that Hungary is continuing to push for international pressure on those countries.
What’s the beef?
Szijjártó’s confrontational posture toward Hungary’s two neighbors can be explained by two minor diplomatic disputes. As we reported in early September, Szijjártó summoned Romania’s ambassador to Hungary over the shutdown of a Hungarian Catholic high school in Târgu Mureș, Romania. One Fidesz official said the state saw the closure as “an attack on the Catholic Church, Hungarian minorities and the children.”
But the Romanian Foreign Ministry declared that Romania’s independent judicial system would have to decide about the school’s future based on the law, adding that there was religious or ethnic discrimination in the country’s education sector. The ministry said the Hungarian government was utilizing the events as part of its election campaign, and called it “incorrect and unfriendly” to connect the Târgu Mureș school case to Romania’s OECD membership.
Szijjártó, however, insisted after the UN summit that the school’s continued operation depends exclusively on the Romanian government’s “goodwill and political desire.”
“That’s why Hungary continues to expect from the Romanian government that it take the necessary steps for the school to continue to operate,” he said, adding that Hungary would not support Romania’s accession into the OECD until the locals in Târgu Mureș and officials of the Catholic Church indicate that the conflict has been resolved.
The foreign minister called the situation with Romania “disappointing” since “positive processes began between the two countries recently that gave cause for hope,” and since the two countries heavily depend on one another economically. Szijjártó emphasized that Hungary sees the Hungarians living in Romania as a community which ties the two countries together, not divides them.
Concerning Croatia, Szijjártó argued that the functioning of the OECD is based on respecting international arbitration decisions, something Hungary argues Croatia did not do after its government lost an arbitration proceeding against Hungarian energy company MOL. Until the Croatian government abides by the result of the arbitration proceeding, Szijjártó said, Hungary will not support its accession into the OECD.
“It might be considered a novelty that Hungarian foreign policy stands firmly for Hungarian interests and the interests of Hungarians beyond the border, but it will always be this way in the future and the time has come for everyone to get used to it,” Szijjártó said.