Czech Republic Diplomacy Energy Hungary Russia Ukraine

Czech FM visits Budapest, as Hungary prepares for EU presidency

| 2024-04-29 3 min read

Czech FM visits Budapest, as Hungary prepares for EU presidency

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hungary will focus on key issues for central Europe during its upcoming EU presidency, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto claimed at a press conference with Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky in Budapest on Friday, 26 April.

According to Szijjarto, the key issues for the region are enlargement for countries in the Western Balkans, energy security and fighting migration.

Szijjarto said the Visegrad Four (Hungary, Czechia, Poland and Slovakia) plays an important role in Hungarian foreign policy and “contributes to improving central Europe’s competitiveness and security, and it brings all of us closer to fulfilling our national goals”. 

He noted that Czechia is Hungary’s sixth largest trading partner and that bilateral trade hit a record EUR 14bn last year. Czechia is also the fourth Hungarian investment location, Szijjarto said, adding that efforts have been made to create joint ventures in the transport and defence industries: Hungarian oil and gas company MOL operates over 300 filling stations in Czechia.

Czechia, Hungary disagree on Russia, Ukraine

Ahead of the talks, Lipavsky had described Russian imperialism as the greatest threat to European security, and later tweeted: “At the meeting with my Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto, I carefully explained the Czech point of view and our Czech security interests. It is important to maintain dialogue with Hungary, despite their differing views on the war in Ukraine.”

For his part, Szijjarto said Hungary refuses to supply arms to Ukraine because military supplies will only prolong the war. He once again stressed the need for peace talks. 

Szijjarto claimed that shared global crises could strengthen the central European common experience because the countries of the region are most affected by the consequences of the ongoing war in their neighbourhood. 

Expansion of nuclear industry, EU on agenda

Szijjarto noted that both countries are planning nuclear developments, adding that “Nuclear energy is a sustainable way of producing energy, it is a safe, environmentally friendly and cheap method for producing large amounts of electricity.” 

“It helps maintain and improve the competitiveness of central Europe, so we do not want to give it up, and we are ready to involve Czech companies in Hungarian nuclear development projects, and we are also in a good position for Hungarian companies to ensure their presence in the area of nuclear developments in the Czech Republic,” he added. 

On EU enlargement in the western Balkans, Szijjarto said it was undeserving that candidates in the region had been waiting for accession for 14 years and 11 months, which he said undermined the credibility of EU policies.

The Hungarian presidency has a clear agenda to help the countries in the Western Balkans speed up the accession process, Szijjarto said, adding that “serious regional cooperation has been necessary to stop the flow of migrants”.

Lipavsky meets gov’t critical US ambassador, Budapest mayor

While in Budapest, Lipavsky met with the US Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman, who has frequently criticised the Hungarian government’s foreign policies, and liberal opposition Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony.

Czechia’s top diplomat also tweeted that: “I had the pleasure of meeting the US Ambassador today in Budapest. Czechia and the US are leading the way in helping Ukraine, and the latest approved aid package is a reminder that the transatlantic bond remains strong.”

Pressman tweeted in response “Great to spend time together and to discuss regional issues during your visit to Budapest. The Alliance between Czechia and the US couldn’t be stronger. We are grateful for your and Czechia’s friendship and leadership,” the US envoy added.

In a series of tweets, Lipavsky wrote: “We have shared historical experience with communist dictatorships. Today, Russia is trying to take it all from us. Moscow once hijacked our region under its rule and is now trying the same with Ukraine. Russian tanks that killed in Budapest and Prague are now killing in Ukraine. If (Russian President Vladimir) Putin wins, he won’t stop at NATO’s borders. That is why we must support Ukraine at all costs.

“Together we are a strong alliance of free democratic nations. We have the means to stop Russian imperialism. Our societies must realize the danger we face. Democracy is about listening and understanding. The fate of our countries lies in our own hands,” Lipavsky underlined.

After meeting Karacsony, Lipavsky wrote “Budapest and Prague – two metropolises, two partner cities”, and recalled that they had collaborated on projects such as city travel apps.