Budapest, Hungary – The Hungarian government imposed its veto on a joint EU statement calling for a ceasefire between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas.
Israel’s closest ally in Europe, Hungary was the only EU country not to give its backing to the resolution.
“A right of every country”
“I have a general problem with these European statements on Israel,” said Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on Tuesday. “These are usually very much one-sided, and these statements do not help, especially not under current circumstances, when the tension is so high.”
Blocking decisions “is a right of every country in the European Union,” Hungary’s envoy added in an interview with AFP.
Hungary regularly comes under fire from other EU member states for its frequent use of its veto power to block EU foreign policy decisions, which need to be made unanimously. Only last week, Budapest blocked a statement critical of China’s crackdown in Hong Kong.
Although the 26 other foreign ministers eventually issued a call for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and agreed to boost humanitarian aid to the Gaza strip after more than a week of violence, the EU’s inability to agree on a joint position hinders the bloc’s ability to act as an important peace-broker and exert influence in the region.
“Hard to understand” Hungary’s veto
Divided between countries with close links to Israel (including Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland) and others more likely to publicly voice their support for the Palestinian cause (such as Belgium, Ireland and Finland), the EU has faced criticism for being too slow in its response to the violent flare-up in the Middle-Eastern conflict.
“We condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups on the Israeli territory, and we fully support Israel’s right to defence,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, said. “We have also considered and stated that this has to be done in a proportionate manner and respecting international humanitarian law,” he added, calling “for the potential relaunching of the peace process, which has been in a stalemate for too long.”
The EU’s foreign policy chief further stated that he found “it hard to understand” Hungary’s objections to the statement.
The EU, which officially supports a two-state solution along the 1967 lines, is the largest trading partner of Israel, and an important aid donour for Palestinians.
Over 210 Palestinians are believed to have been killed since the upsurge of violence ten days ago, including more than 60 children. Israeli authorities said that at least 10 people were killed in Israel.