“Hungary is standing up in support of Ukraine’s territorial unity and independence, but is monitoring Ukraine’s minority-affecting politics”, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó declared in Brussels in a statement to Hungarian reporters on Tuesday.

Az his press conference held during the recess of the first working day of the two-day meeting of NATO member state foreign ministers, Mr. Szijjártó said: “Until Ukraine stops the systematic reduction of the rights of the Hungarian national community, Hungary will not be authorising the convening of any session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC)”.

“There is major pressure on us to give up this position. If we were to do so then we would have no other resource with which to take action in the interests of Hungarian national communities”, he underlined.

The Minister stressed that the protection of minority rights is inseparable from security issues. “Assuring the rights of minorities is part of security and stability. It is no accident that in its Annual National Programme Ukraine undertook to maintain, develop and respect minority rights”, he pointed out.

“Hungary can only withdraw its veto in one case: if the Ukrainians take the required action in the interests of restoring to the Hungarian community living on its territory the rights to which they are due in accordance with bilateral agreements and international law. The ball is on Ukraine’s court”, he added.

With relation to his bilateral talks with the Macedonian foreign minister, Mr. Szijjártó told the press that according to the Hungarian position the case involving the request for asylum submitted by former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is a legal matter with relation to which procedures are performed by an authority that is independent from the government, as is also the case with relation to the extradition request. He confirmed, however, that Hungary wishes to maintain and further reinforce political cooperation between the two countries, as it has done to date.

The Minister expressed his hope that following the end of the debate on Macedonia’s name, the country’s NATO integration process can be completed early next year. He also told the press that Hungary will be authorising Macedonia’s request to post a new ambassador to Budapest within the framework of an accelerated procedure, thus indicating that it continues to regard political cooperation as a priority, particularly in view of the fact that Macedonia is playing an important role in stopping new waves of migration.

With relation to Georgia, which also took part in the meeting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade declared: “It is time for NATO to launch the Membership Action Plan (MAP)”. “There can be no legal or security barrier preventing the Alliance from inviting Georgia to begin a MAP. Unfortunately, however, the standpoints do not seem to have converged in this regard, despite the fact that Hungary believes that from the perspective of reinforcing NATO it would be important for the Alliance to provide positive feedback to countries that fulfil the requirements”, he said.

With relation to the undertaking according to which NATO member states will be increasing their defence spending to two percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) by 2024, Mr. Szijjártó said that from among the NATO member states Hungary has nothing to be ashamed about in view of the fact that it has begun implementing a major military development programme. Within the framework of the programme it has ordered 20 Airbus helicopters, has purchase training and reconnaissance aircraft from the Czech Republic, and will be beginning the production of handguns in January based on a Czech licence, in addition to which it is developing closer defence industry cooperation with Turkey, he explained.

“Hungary will be achieving the required defence spending level, including a 20 percent development ratio, by the 2024 target date in accordance with expectations”, he added.

Mr. Szijjártó also highlighted that NATOs role in the fight against terrorism must be increased further. “One of the consequences of terrorism is that huge numbers of illegal immigrants are on the move worldwide. In such areas the numbers of crimes and aggressive acts have increased dramatically. For this reason, terrorism and the fight against illegal immigration must both be kept at the head of the agenda”, the Minister underlined.

The main topics of discussion at the two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers include the fate of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and Bosnia-Hercegovina’s accession aspirations.