Budapest, Hungary – Diplomacy is a tough, tough world, and can sometimes lead to odd and unexpected situations when exasperation overrides the diplomat’s customary tact. According to the EU Observer, the EU and more specifically Finland ignored a Hungarian veto on an EU statement on Israel on Monday, during a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York.
Finland ignores Hungary veto
After Hungary, arguably Israel’s closest ally within the bloc, objected “at the very, very last minute” to an EU statement critical of Israel, “Finland read it out anyway at the United Nations Security Council meeting, in a game of protocol niceties laced with irritation”.
Finish ambassador to the U.N. Kai Sauer read out: “I have the honour to speak on behalf of…” the 27 EU countries which he listed, Hungary excluded. Helsinki’s envoy to New York then read the rest of the statement in the name of the European Union, saying that for the bloc, the “key priority” was to work peacefully towards a two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians, omitting Hungary’s last-minute objections to the wording of the document.
In the statement, Helsinki’s envoy also cited “serious concerns” regarding ongoing violence and the continued building of Israeli settlements, trends that are “threatening the viability of the two-state solution”.
Growing “irritation” towards Hungary
Finland read the statement on the grounds that it will take over the EU presidency from Romania in a few months, and due to the fact that the country actually holding the EU presidency can only speak for all 28 member states (which wasn’t the case here).
According to the EU Observer, citing diplomatic sources, this odd incident came amid strong “irritation” from Finland and other EU members with Hungary, whose envoys raised their objections at the last minute without giving any reason why.
Hungary hits back after “unacceptable” diplomatic snub
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto reacted with anger to the incident. Speaking to Euronews, he said: “We made it very clear that we do not agree with the text that was finalized”, adding that the statement shouldn’t have referred to ‘the EU’s position’, considering the Hungarian opposition.
Peter Szijjarto also suggested Hungary wouldn’t let the matter rest, hinting of reporting it to the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and top diplomat, Federica Mogherini.
Budapest’s close relationship with Israel
In the past, Hungary has repeatedly blocked a number of U.N. and EU resolutions condemning Israel, and last year vetoed, along with Romania and the Czech Republic, a statement criticizing Washington’s decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem.
Although the Hungarian government has come under fire for using what critics describe as an increasingly anti-Semitic rhetoric and growing revisionism, relations with Israel have surged in recent years. A few weeks after a summit in Jerusalem between Viktor Orban and Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, Hungary opened a diplomatic trade mission in Jerusalem, breaking from the official EU position that doesn’t recognize the Holy City as the capital of Israel.
According to the EU treaties, foreign policy decisions have to be agreed by consensus by all EU member states. But the European Commission, along with several EU countries, is currently exploring ways to reform the EU’s decision-making process in foreign policy matters to find a way to take such decisions through a qualified majority in order to override a single country’s veto.