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Hungary’s Péter Szijjártó Meets British and Austrian Foreign Ministers, Talks UN Migration Package

Ábrahám Vass 2018.03.05.

Last week, after meeting (and running) with his British counterpart Boris Johnson, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said that his government views Brexit as a “huge problem,” and deeply regrets the British people’s decision to quit the European Union. 

At the same time, Szijjártó stressed that, by the end of the talks, the EU and Great-Britain have to come to a fair agreement regarding Brexit. Hungary’s stance is that the broadest possible free trade agreement needs to be ensured, and deep cooperation needs to be maintained in security and defence. Protection of the rights of Hungarians working in Britain is a top-priority as well, Szijjártó added.

Speaking to the press conference, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson emphasized that, while Britain is leaving the EU, it will remain committed to the security and defence of Central Europe after Brexit, and will protect the rights of Hungarians working in the United Kingdom. He added that bilateral relations between the two countries are very close, and claimed that the two countries have the same position on many issues (You can read our exclusive interview with British Ambassador Iain Lindsay here.)

The two Foreign Ministers running together at Margitsziget. Photo: Facebook.


Orbán Government Proposal on UN Migration Draft Package 

The Hungarian government has approved a 12-point proposal concerning the United Nations’ draft package on migration and will submit it to the head of the UN General Assembly, the foreign minister said. The proposal includes measures aimed at guaranteeing the safety of Hungarians, Szijjártó said in his opening address to an international conference focusing on the UN’s migration package in Budapest.

If the 12-point proposal does not get incorporated into the UN package, Hungary will not be in a position to support the community’s draft,

he said, claiming that migration is dangerous and carries serious national security risks, as has been proven over the recent period. According to the Fidesz politician, the draft calls on the international community to give priority to measures aimed at halting migration. Further, it argues that migration is not a basic human right.

The proposal highlights the negative aspects of migration, including its effects on those forced to leave their homes and on transit countries. It also points out that migration can force communities to take in and integrate a large number of people with a different cultural background, the minister said.

The international community should recognise the right of everyone to live in peace and security in their native land or, if this is impossible, in its close neighbourhood,

Szijjártó said. Further, it stresses the need to eliminate human smuggling rings and punish human smugglers as well as declaring the fundamental right of all countries to give priority to the security of their citizens and decide whom they allow to enter their territory, he added. The international community should support the efforts of all countries to preserve their identity, traditions and social structure, he said.

FM Szijjártó at the conference focusing on the UN’s migration package in Budapest. Photo: Koszticsák Szilárd/ MTI.

The proposal underlines that there are better methods for meeting demographic and labour market challenges than migration, Szijjártó claimed. It calls on the international community to support border protection measures by states affected by migration and enforce national and international regulations that punish illegal border crossing as a serious crime. Finally, the migration package should not impose any legal obligation on the member states. Szijjártó said the proposal would be submitted to EU and NATO member states as well.

At the beginning of February, in response to the UN’s migration package draft which is scheduled to be adopted at the end of this year (although inter-governmental negotiations have not started yet) Szijjártó claimed that unless “there is a positive shift towards Hungary’s position” Hungary will start proceedings to quit talks. The foreign minister said that both the stance of the UN declaration and of the secretary-general’s statement were in conflict with Hungary’s position and interests in connection with migration. They suggested that “migration is good and unavoidable”, while according to the Hungarian government, migration is “not a positive trend” and it “poses serious security risks and can be stopped.”

Szijjártó also insisted that the so-called “Soros Plan”, the alleged plans of US financier George Soros concerning migration, did exist “as a clear concept” and “there seems to be a parallel” with the UN chief’s statement.

“Friendship between Austria and Hungary has been restored”

Szijjártó with her Austrain counterpart, Katrin Kneissl in Budapest. Photo: Ficsor Márton / Magyar Hírlap

This is what Péter Szijjártó told a press conference after talks with his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl. Economic cooperation “is extremely important”, the Hungarian Foreign Minister said. The two officials agreed that the root causes of migration must be addressed and that it was possible to protect Europe’s sea borders. Kneissl noted that Austria will assume the EU’s rotating presidency on July 1. Its focus will be subsidiarity, she said, adding that the EU would have to consult member states on the issues of migration and refugees.

After the October elections in Austria, analysts predicted that the Hungarian government’s relations with the Austrian government might improve, and indeed PM Orbán was among the first to congratulate Sebastian Kurz on winning the Austrian elections. Since then, however, it has become clear that there still are points of contention between the two countries. First, in January Sebastian Kurz announced that his government would introduce a new way to calculate family allowances for resident’s children living in other countries; the planned cut in benefits would affect almost 40 thousand Hungarian children as well. Following this, Austria decided to sue the European Union over Hungary’s Paks nuclear plant expansion. PM Orbán’s visit at the end of January, however, took place amid relatively friendly circumstances, as both sides made efforts to avoid addressing areas of disagreement.


via hungarymatters.hu, reuters.com

image: Balogh Zoltán/ MTI