BUDAPEST, Hungary – Hungary is recalling its ambassador to the Netherlands and suspending high-level diplomatic ties in response to critical remarks by the Dutch ambassador about Hungary, the Hungarian foreign minister said Friday.
Peter Szijjarto said that Hungary’s decision was “one of the most radical steps in diplomacy” and that it would ask the Dutch foreign ministry for its position on the statements of Ambassador Gajus Scheltema, published Thursday in Hungary by the 168 Ora magazine.
“We won’t settle for an explanation behind closed doors,” Szijjarto said, adding that Scheltema, who was already scheduled to leave Hungary soon, was no longer welcome at any Hungarian ministry or state institution.
In the interview, Scheltema was critical of Hungary’s unwillingness to participate in a European Union plan to relocate asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy. He also criticized the Hungarian government’s campaign against billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros and drew parallels between the government’s efforts to “create enemies” and those of the Islamic State group.
Speaking to reporters in the Netherlands, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders criticized the ambassador’s comments.
“It is not right. That comparison should not be made,” Koenders said.
Scheltema also expressed concerns about corruption and press freedoms in Hungary.
Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said Scheltema’s statement equating political campaigns by Hungary’s government with those of extremist groups was “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.”
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban claims that an old Soros proposal to bring large numbers of migrants to Europe is being carried out at present by the EU.
Orban, who benefited from a Soros-funded scholarship in the late 1980s, sees an ideological foe in the Hungarian-born financier whose Open Society Foundations support many civic groups while promoting democracy, human rights and the protection of minorities.