UK Ambassador to Budapest: We have left the European Union but not Europe

Britain signed a bilateral security agreement with Sweden, which is applying for NATO membership, this week and is preparing to take a similar step with Finland. Both countries can count on London’s support in a possible attack on them. The UK ambassador in Budapest told Kossuth European Time radio that the agreement had a symbolic but also practical meaning.

Interview with Paul Fox, UK Ambassador to Budapest

– Perhaps the most important British diplomatic event this week is the visit of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Sweden and Finland. “Article Five” was discussed and approved, referring to the common defense component of the NATO Treaty. In other words, the UK will defend these countries if they are attacked. But whether this agreement has a more symbolic or practical meaning, as the two countries are likely to join NATO soon anyway.

– I just read that Finland has also officially indicated its intention to join NATO. I will talk about this in a broader context. As is known, Britain last year presented its international political vision, which makes it clear that we want to be very active in the international arena, including on security issues. In a speech in late April, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss noted a review of several factors in light of Russia’s involuntary and disgraceful invasion of Ukraine. The goal was to review the security architecture and build global alliances to make our security sustainable. The visit of the Prime Minister came in light of this. We have indicated that we understand that NATO membership is being considered, but the UK is already considering ensuring their protection through the offer. Of course, once they become members, they will enjoy the protection provided by Article 5 of the NATO document. In short, this agreement has a symbolic but also practical meaning.

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Does this agreement indicate a new type of relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom? After all, the focus is on bilateral relations. However, the general picture has now changed somewhat in Europe and has changed in British-European relations, although there are no differences between the two sides about the continuation of security cooperation, despite Brexit.

“Then I will line up.” The first thing I and my predecessor here said, as well as my colleagues in Europe many times, is that we have left the European Union, but not Europe. Our response to the situation in Ukraine reflects just that. It cannot be stressed enough how significant and significant the event was on February 24, when Putin, following his decision, launched his armed forces in Ukraine. It was a turning point, comparable to the fall of the Berlin Wall, or 9/11, so it requires a rethinking and a united response. This is what NATO means in Europe, we are committed members of the alliance, and it is reflected in our activities in Ukraine, in terms of training, humanitarian and military equipment. But it highlights the enhanced presence in Estonia and the security guarantees offered to Swedes and Finns as they joined NATO. The situation in Ukraine has a significant impact on our relations with our friends in the European Union. We work very closely together, whether it’s about sanctions or humanitarian aid. In addition, we have strengthened our bilateral relations with various European countries. Just two examples; The first is Poland, specifically in light of events in Ukraine, but I can also mention Hungary, with which we have strong relations, as evidenced by the fact that Prime Minister Orban has visited the UK twice in the past 12 months. We are very focused on bilateral relations, but this is not an alternative. It must also be said that differences with our friends in the European Union remain open. One that has arisen in recent years is the Northern Ireland Convention. And now, after elections to the House of Parliament in Northern Ireland, and one of the parties representing the Northern Irish community blocking the formation of a local government until concerns about a border settlement are resolved, it has become a pressing and crucial issue. That is why we urge the European Union to change its position on this issue. We don’t want to get rid of the protocol, just make it more efficient. But this must be done urgently because the situation in Northern Ireland is unsustainable. Our main concern is whether the Good Friday Agreement will be preserved there. This means that we consider both security issues, security in Ukraine and security in Northern Ireland.

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