BUDAPEST – European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday will
likely introduce “new and much more stringent” sanctions against Iran, Hungarian
Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told The Jerusalem Post
feel that sanctions work, and the EU’s position is always that we have to follow
a double-track approach,” he said, referring to sanctions and attempts at
finding a diplomatic solution to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear
capabilities.RELATED:Netanyahu pressuring Europe to embargo Iranian oil France's Juppe: EU to agree on Iran sanctions
Asked whether Hungary will support the imposition of an
embargo on Iranian oil, an issue scheduled to be decided at Monday’s meeting,
Martonyi said he believed there would be a EU consensus that tougher sanctions
needed to be introduced.
In addition to an oil embargo, the 27 EU foreign
ministers are expected to agree on a freeze of Iranian central bank assets.
Consensus on Middle
East issues inside the EU is often elusive, the most recent example being an EU
split on whether to grant full membership to “Palestine” in UNESCO, a motion
that passed in October.
While five EU countries voted against the
measure, 11 voted for and another 11 abstained, including several Central
European countries such as Hungary.
Martonyi said one factor behind his
country’s decision to abstain on the vote, rather than to vote against as did
the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Sweden, was that a
Hungarian diplomat was the president of UNESCO’s General Conference this year,
something that meant Hungary had to show “neutrality” on the
Martonyi danced around the question whether he thought Israel was
being treated fairly inside the EU.
Hungary for its own part is facing
heavy criticism inside the EU because of concerns that its Prime Minister Viktor
Orban is leading the country down an authoritative path.
Hungarian officials believe that Hungary itself is now not being treated fairly
by the EU.
According to diplomatic officials in Jerusalem, Budapest is
friendly toward Israel in the EU institutions, but not at the level of former
Iron Curtain countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland and, to a lesser
extent, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia and Lithuania.
On the on the other end
of the spectrum, Slovenia is seen as the “coldest” toward Israel of the former
Soviet bloc countries that joined the EU in 2004.
Asked why it was
important for his country to have a strong relationship with Israel, Martonyi
said “because we have an extremely important Jewish community, on the one hand,
and on the other hand we have 200,000 Hungarian citizens living in
At a speech on Tuesday at a ceremony in Budapest launching
events marking the 100th birthday of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who
saved more than 20,000 Hungarian Jews in the waning days of World War II,
Martonyi said Hungary placed a “special emphasis on Israel’s
Asked about this during his interview with the Post
said the two countries had a “special relationship” that could be seen in
“trade, investment, and foreign policy.” The volume of Hungarian-Israeli trade
is some $350 million a year.
This “special relationship” was also evident
in the “revival of Jewish culture, Jewish music, Jewish festivals, Jewish food
and Jewish religious life” in Hungary, he asserted. Martonyi said it was further
evident in the 200,000 Hungarian-born Jews in Israel, a community he maintained
continued to form a “bridge between the two countries.”