Hungarian Foreign Minister in Rīga: Vaccine policy should not be ideological

March 5 saw Hungary's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Szijjártó, in Latvia on a working visit which included meetings with President Egils Levits and Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Szijjártó presented the priorities of Hungary in its upcoming Presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers. 

Rinkēvičs commented positively on the good bilateral relations between Latvia and Hungary and he thanked Hungary for its involvement in NATO’s collective defence measures in the Baltic region including a decision to continue its engagement in Baltic Air Policing missions taking place in 2022 and 2025.

The Latvian Foreign Minister welcomed Hungary’s decision to change its status as an observer at the NATO Strategic Communication Centre of Excellence in Riga to one of permanent representation, increasing its contribution to the centre’s work.

"Opinions were exchanged on the topics high on the agenda of the European Union and its neighbours: cooperation during the COVID-19 crisis, the rule of law, Europe’s future, migration, the mobility package, the Multiannual Financial Framework, climate and energy. The Ministers agreed that cooperation between the countries and support for neighbours during the epidemiological crisis is an essential factor in restricting the pandemic. Public health is the top priority. It can be guaranteed by a timely deployment of vaccines and effective vaccination strategies. At the same time, it is essential to ensure smooth functioning of the Single Market," said a Latvian Foreign Ministry statement.

The ministers also joined one another in condemning violations of democracy and human rights in Belarus and Russia.

Szijjártó also gave an interview to LTV in which he gave the reasons why Hungary recently became the first member of the European Union to use the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine to vaccinate its population without waiting for the Russian vaccine to be approved for use by EU regulators.

"We understand that the Brussels-led centralized procurement procedure is much slower than it should be. I think that Latvia has had a similar experience, receiving less vaccine than we expected. It is a matter of human lives. If more than 100 people die every day, if the Hungarian economy loses EUR 30 million every day, then action must be taken.

"Our experts visited both Russia and China, received the necessary documents, performed sample inspections and based on this decided that these vaccines are safe and effective,” Szijjártó said, adding that vaccines should not be viewed through an ideological prism.

Asked if he himself would be ready to be vaccinated with Sputnik V, the Minister replied: “Yes, of course! I will receive my vaccine next Friday. And I am ready to accept any vaccine that has been approved by Hungarian experts. Our prime minister was vaccinated with a vaccine made in China; I myself will most likely be vaccinated with Sputnik."

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