Foreign Affairs

Austria’s President Pays Official Visit To Hungary For Talks With Hungarian Counterpart, Prime Minister

Hungary and Austria are both committed to complying with the Paris Climate Agreement and to drafting the rules for its implementation as quickly as possible, Hungarian President János Ader said after talks with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Van der Bellen, who paid an official visit to Budapest on Tuesday.

Hungarian President János Áder (right) welcomes his Austrian counterpart Alexander van der Bellen (left) in the Sándor palace of the Buda Castle (photo: Szilárd Koszticsák – MTI)

János Áder said Hungary and Austria are obliged to make it clear that the US president’s decision to quit the agreement would not affect its implementation. Áder stressed the importance of the two country’s economic relations and said he and Van der Bellen were in agreement that those ties needed to be expanded further. Austria is Hungary’s second largest trading partner, with an annual turnover of around 10 billion euros, Áder said, adding that Austrian companies employ 70,000-75,000 people in Hungary, and many Hungarians find employment in Austria.

Alexander Van der Bellen said that in light of the two countries’ long-standing, “special relationship”, it was not surprising that Hungary and Austria’s economic cooperation was progressing well.The talks alsotouched upon Hungary’s planning to upgrade its nuclear plant at Paks, and both presidents concluded that their countries “do not share a position” on nuclear energy. Van der Bellen added, however, that Austria has better conditions to use hydroelectric power.

The Austrian President noted that he had met leaders of Hungarian universities and voiced hope that the tension between the Hungarian government and the Central European University could be eased.

On the subject of migration, János Áder said that refugees need to be settled in the first safe country they arrive in,and they must be assisted in returningto their homelands when possible. He said that economic and political refugees need to be distinguished, and added that “now Austria has also changed its position”. Answering a question on border control, Van der Bellen said that his country’s police were in close cooperation with Hungarian authorities, and were making attempts to avoid traffic congestions at border crossing points.

Meanwhile the Austrian Foreign Minister and ÖVP leader Sebastian Kurz, has warned that a fresh wave of migrants — unable to use the West Balkan route now that it has been effectively closed off and fewer migrants are crossing from     Turkey — are increasingly using the perilous Mediterranean route. Kurz - who is a heavy backer of the closing the       West Balkan migrant route - is now demanding all migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea be taken to new camps in Tunisia and Egypt. The news comes as the European Commission launched a legal case against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, which have refused to take part in a mandatory migrant relocation scheme intended to relieve pressure on both Italy and Greece, which have borne the brunt of migrant arrivals via the Mediterranean.
Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in the Parliament (photo: Gergely Botár – kormany.hu)

During his official visit to Budapest, Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen was also received by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The two leaders held talks on economic issues and the stability of the Western Balkans in Budapest, according to Orbán’s press chief said.

They underlined the importance of good neighbourly relations and discussed ways to develop bilateral cooperation, Bertalan Havasi said. It was established that Austria is Hungary’s second largest trade partner, with Austrian companies employing nearly 80,000 Hungarians. Orbán and Van der Bellen agreed to continue cooperation so as to guarantee stability in the Western Balkans, he said.

However, Alexander Van der Bellen said on his official Facebook page that they also touched upon delicate issues such as the SOS children’s villages, Hungary’s controversial CEU and NGO laws and the “difficult situation of migrants in Hungary.”

via hungarymatters.hu and MTI; feautred photo: Szilárd Koszticsák – MTI