Hungary has recalled its ambassador in The Hague. The move comes in response to remarks made by the Dutch envoy, in which he compared Budapest’s efforts to “create enemies” to those of the “Islamic State” jihadist group.
Blunt remarks by the Netherlands’ ambassador to Hungary, Gajus Scheltema, have ruptured relations between the two EU member states and prompted Budapest to take “one of the most radical steps in diplomacy” by withdrawing its ambassador from The Hague.
In an interview published Thursday in the Hungarian opposition magazine 168 Ora, Scheltema lambasted Hungary’s unwillingness to take part in the EU’s plan to relocate asylum seekers, expressed concerns over corruption and press freedom in the country, and decried the Orban government’s campaign against billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros.
However, what most enraged Budapest was when he drew parallels between the Hungarian government and the so-called “Islamic State” jihadist group.
“Here it is always an immediate search for an enemy,” he said, accusing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban of “creating enemies according to the same principle as globalization losers and religious fanatics.”
The interview was published in Hungarian, although it remains unclear in what language it was conducted.
Budapest hits back
Following the interview, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto announced that Budapest would withdraw its ambassador from The Hague and bar Scheltema from entering any Hungarian ministry or state institution.
“Relations at the level of ambassadors have been suspended indeterminably,” Szijjarto said.
Hungary’s top diplomat described the decision as “one of the most radical steps in diplomacy,” adding that he would ask for the Dutch Foreign Ministry’s position on ambassador Scheltema’s statements. “We won’t settle for an explanation behind closed doors,” he said.
Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said Scheltema’s remarks were “totally unacceptable and impermissible.”
“There is no need for such unprecedented statements, neither in bilateral relations nor in Europe,” Kovacs said. “We decidedly reject (them) and we expect the Netherlands to take steps in this regard.”
Scheltema was reportedly already scheduled to leave his diplomatic post in the near future.