EP criticizes Szijjártó for Minsk visit

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European Parliament deplores Hungarian FM's trip to Belarus

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on Belarus on Wednesday, including a paragraph on Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó's recent trip to Minsk.  The resolution underlines the importance of strengthening EU unity concerning Belarus, including the diplomatic isolation of the current regime. 

They condemn any actions, including "high-ranking visits to the de facto authorities in Minsk, which could cast doubt on the Union’s unequivocal non-recognition of the Lukashenka regime". The EP "deplores the 13 February 2023 visit to Minsk by the Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, which contradicts the EU policy on Belarus and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, and disapproves of the continuing issuance by some Member States of Schengen visas to individuals close to Aliaksandr Lukashenka". 

During his visit to Minsk, Szijjarto said:  "It is clear that after you report that I was here today to discuss the importance of peace with my Belarusian counterpart, I will be attacked by many. My fellow politicians in the West, and the international liberal media, will all say how bad that I was here today and that I had talks with my Belarusian colleague. I want to say one thing in response: The Hungarian position has always been clear: the channels of communication must be kept open".

“Hungary has reached an important moment in determining its future path,” US Ambassador says

US Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman traveled to Washington, D.C last week to meet Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, senior White House National Security Council officials, and members of the Senate. Following these meetings, Pressman urged the Hungarian government to pivot from Russia in a statement

In his meetings, Pressman discussed the need for 'unequivocal unity and resolve in standing up to Putin', the urgency of accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO, and recent statements made by the leadership of Hungary about the United States, including "uniquely anti-American rhetoric from senior Hungarian officials".

“Hungary has reached an important moment in determining its future path,” the US Ambassador said.  “As Russia’s unjustifiable war rages next door, the time is now for a stronger relationship between Hungary and its Transatlantic Allies and partners.” 

German Ambassador expresses concerns over state of press freedom in Hungary 

German Ambassador to Hungary Julia Gross sat down with Hungarian investigative outlet Atlatszo for an interview in which she voiced concerns over LGBTQ rights and the state of press freedom in the Central European country. 

"Hungary’s so-called Child Protection Act which arguably does a lot less to protect children and a lot more to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community – does not fall under the [conditionality] mechanism," said Gross.  “This needs to be clearly distinguished,” she said. “But we will monitor developments. What we find very problematic is that issues are being linked that we think have nothing to do with each other – pedophilia on the one hand and the debate about LGBTQI rights and gender issues on the other. They have nothing to do with each other,” she said.

The ambassador has also touched on press freedom. She stressed that free press is a central pillar of any democracy. “The legal framework must guarantee the right of the press to self-determination. It must ensure that all media across the political spectrum have equal access to information and are not hampered in their investigation of causes. All media must have equal access to funding – for example, through advertising costs,” Gross said.

Hungarian government has become one of the strongest backers of Russian 'spy bank', investigative outlet reveals

Leaked documents from Budapest-based International Investment Bank (IIB), which is often referred to as the 'Russian spy bank' revealed that the financial institution is in a 'catastrophic situation because of the war' and that Hungary remained a key ally and support of the majority-owning Russians, VSquare and its partner outlet Direkt 36 reports. 

Documents obtained by the investigative outlet show that the Orban government's officials allegedly tried to help unfreeze funds blocked by the EU and initiated steps to help avoid direct western sanctions “by plotting possible new shareholding structures that would officially keep Russia’s ownership below 50 percent”. 

The report also reveals that Poland, the first country to quit the bank, is still trying to retrieve its money after a similar withdrawal more than two decades ago. The bank unsuccessfully tried to re-enter Poland through the back door, as a previous investigation by Vsquare revealed. "Despite repeated attempts by Poland to recover the €29.15 million debt, it never got its money back," VSquare writes.  “The situation is complicated. We are re-examining the issue to find the best solution, also taking into account recent reports on the bank’s situation,” the Polish Ministry of Finance told the outlet.