Hungary and Slovakia will open diplomatic offices in Jerusalem

The announcements follow a summit meeting of their leaders with Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The prime ministers of Hungary and Slovakia announced Tuesday that their governments will open offices with diplomatic status in Jerusalem after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Israeli capital.

“I just informed the prime minister that the Hungarian government decided that we will open up a trade representation here, which will have a diplomatic status, so we will appear now in Jerusalem officially as well,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said. He hopes it will be “a good step forward” in improving the bilateral relations between the two countries, he added.

Netanyahu responded by thanking Orban for “extend[ing] the embassy of Hungary in Israel to Jerusalem” in matters of trade.

“After months of efforts that I have led, today we have a very important achievement: Hungary has decided to open in Jerusalem a diplomatic branch of its embassy, and Slovakia has decided to open an innovation and cultural center in Jerusalem. This follows the Czech Republic announcement that it is opening a Czech House in Jerusalem. These are efforts that have borne fruit.”

“This is important,” he emphasized. “It’s a sign of our friendship. And it’s also a place in Jerusalem that can welcome you next time you come here.”

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Meanwhile, Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini declared that his country will soon open a “new cultural, information and innovation center” in Jerusalem that would be served by an official representative of his foreign ministry. Slovakia has posted only four diplomats in foreign countries with an innovation portfolio.

Slovakian MP Martin Glváč announced his government’s intention to open just a cultural center in Jerusalem last July, with the “hope that this is the first of a series of steps that will follow.” He and other lawmakers had come to a Knesset event marking Israel’s 70th anniversary and the centennial of the establishment of Czechoslovakia, which split peacefully into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

The prime ministers were in Israel together with their Czech counterpart, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, whose country had already established a trade and tourism mission in Jerusalem in November. Called Czech House, it was officially opened by President Milos Zeman, who “sees it as a precursor to the transfer of the Czech Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” a statement by the Czech parliament said at the time.

The three leaders were supposed to have been joined by a Polish representative for a summit of their four-country alliance, called the Visegrad Group (V4), together with Israel. All members of the European Union, these Central European nations have been growing closer to Jerusalem over the past few years, bucking the recent trend of the European bloc to criticize Jerusalem regularly in the diplomatic arena.

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However, Poland backed out due to anger over Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz’s statement on Sunday, quoting late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, that the Poles “imbibe anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk.” The Jerusalem summit instead turned into a series of bilateral meetings.