Hungary has sided with the United Kingdom against the EU establishment, as the bloc attempts to freeze the British out of the Galileo satellite programme it helped to design and pay for.
Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, representing Viktor Orbán’s recently re-elected conservative-populist government, said Hungary opposed the “irresponsible” stance of the European Commission, which is reportedly pushing to shut Britain out at the behest of Angela Merkel’s Germany — despite the misgivings of France, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the Baltic states.
Britain has contributed valuable expertise and more than a billion euros to the satellite system — covering around 12 per cent of total costs — and its negotiating team believes it should either retain full access to it or have its costs refunded.
— David Davis (@DavidDavisMP) May 24, 2018
“Losing, or not taking advantage of the capacity that the United Kingdom can contribute to the Galileo project, I think it’s rather irresponsible, and I don’t really see that that would be the interest of the European Union,” said Szijjártó during one of several British television interviews on the subject.
“All those capacities which can be offered by the UK for more security in Europe must be used,” he added — likely in reference to suggestions that Britain could prevent the EU from using important ground stations in the Falklands and Ascension Island, and launch a rival all-British GPS system.
NEW: Hungarian Foreign Minister intervenes in row over UK participation in Galileo satellite project. Peter Szijjarto tells @itvnews it would be 'irresponsible' for EU to push out the UK which contributes 12% of budget pic.twitter.com/OaqLPzEdYW
— Libby Wiener (@LibbyWienerITV) May 24, 2018
This is not the first time Szijjártó has gone public to express Hungary’s desire for a comprehensive free trade agreement and security partnership with the United Kingdom after Brexit, or warn of the potential damage with attempts to “teach the British a lesson” could do to the EU itself.
“We reject the approach according to which the British must be punished; their decision must be respected even if it would have been in Hungary’s interests for Great Britain to remain a member of the European Union,” he said in 2017.
“We need to avoid a situation whereby the EU goes to the back of the line for Britain… Losing such a partner and giving it away to others would be a suicidal strategy,” he added.