The Prime Minister was speaking at a press conference in Warsaw after a meeting of the heads of government of the Visegrád Four (V4) Member States.
In addition to several other topics, such as last week’s EU summit in Rome and Brexit, the agenda of the meeting featured the issue of immigration. In relation to this Mr. Orbán made it clear that Hungary has closed all legislative loopholes, and is prepared for the potential failure of the migration agreement between the European Union and Turkey. “We are able to stop a flow of migration of any size at the Hungarian-Serbian border”, he stated.
He added that Hungary has taken the first steps towards putting an end to the “migrant business”, in which “a number of NGOs clearly see the migrant issue as a business issue”. Therefore, he said, “we shall also create full transparency” with regard to non-governmental organisations.
At the same time the Prime Minister condemned arguments seeking to connect the issue of immigration to EU funds.
“We must not allow ourselves to be intimidated: we must remain committed to a sensible migrant policy”, he told his V4 counterparts.
In answer to a journalist’s question on the stricter legislative regime on the borders, which took effect on Tuesday, he said that the new provisions primarily serve the security of EU citizens: “We are not only protecting Hungary, but also the countries which lie behind us.”
He said that nowadays the Austrians and the Germans can sleep soundly because Hungary is meeting its obligations under the Schengen Agreement.
Mr. Orbán said that several individuals involved in terrorist attacks entered Europe by “infiltration” of the EU’s borders, but that Hungary’s legislative border defences makes this dangerous infiltration of the EU impossible at the Hungarian border.
At the same time, he continued, we must get used to the fact that all such measures provoke debates, and “even absurd judgements are passed” – such as that at the European court in Strasbourg. In his view such legal proceedings are related to the “migrant business” of some civil society organisations, and “must be thoroughly investigated”.
He likewise dismissed as absurd those criticisms from Brussels which accuse Hungary of a lack of solidarity. By way of explanation he said that in the past year and a half Hungary has spent “monstrous amounts of money” on protection of its borders, and Brussels has not contributed a penny to the recent costs of border protection. As a result, he said, “today Hungarian taxpayers are paying for the security of Austrian and German citizens”.
With regard to the EU summit held in Rome last week, Mr. Orbán said that the V4 had the opportunity to clearly demonstrate that they have a common position related to the future of the continent. Speaking about the text of the Rome Declaration, he praised Polish prime minister Beata Szydło, saying that she played a major role in ensuring that the most important elements of the V4’s joint proposal were incorporated in the EU document. In his view this also shows that the Visegrád cooperation is “not a lobbying group within the EU, but a community of countries united by a shared fate, a shared history and shared values”.
The Prime Minister went on to stress that the V4 can no longer be seen as a group of countries asking for handouts, as the economic indicators clearly show that this is Europe’s most dynamically developing region: it does not diminish the strength of the EU, but adds to it; without its contribution there would be little or no economic growth in the Union.
In his view the Rome Declaration does not mark the end of debate on the continent’s future, but moves it to a phase in which the details are being developed, and “the devil is in the detail”. There is a general declaration regarding the future of Europe, but over the next few months the European Commission will present five major packages. “These will be the details in which the devil resides”, he said, adding that he urges the V4 to respond swiftly to all these packages.
In the context of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, the Prime Minister again pointed out that in essence the Hungarian position is that the rights of those working in Britain must be protected, and the balance of rights and obligations must also be maintained as part of a fair agreement extending beyond the United Kingdom’s departure.
Photo by Balázs Szecsődi