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It is in Hungary’s interest that Turkey releases migrants towards Syria rather than in the direction of Europe, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told public radio on Friday.

Turkey hosts some three million migrants, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to “let them out” if Europe fails to take over some of the financial burden, Orbán said in an interview to Kossuth Radio.

Migrants can break out towards Europe or Syria, their homeland, Orbán said. The latter needs to be stabilised for them to go back, he added. “That is what seems to have happened there”, he said, adding that Turkey had set up a safe zone in northern Syria recently.

Orbán to EU: Support Turkey to Build Cities in Syria for Refugees

If Turkey “opens the gates to Europe”, hundreds of thousands of migrants will flood into Greece, the Balkans and eventually all the way to the Croatian or Hungarian border, he said.

“It is in Hungary’s basic interest that this does not happen,” Orbán said. “One Röszke was enough,” he added, referring to a clash between border guards and migrants camped on the Serbian side of the Röszke border crossing in 2015.

Regarding Turkey’s offensive on Syrian soil, Orbán said the US and Turkey had “made an agreement”, and so “we have no further foreign policy task here … other than agreeing with the two largest military powers of NATO.”

Regarding the October 13 local elections, Orbán said he “regretted” that voters had chosen opposition mayors in many localities. On the other hand, the 52-53 percent support of ruling party candidates gives the government “renewed empowerment” to carry on with their work, so they are not going to change course, he said.

New Situation in Hungarian Politics after Local Elections

Regarding Budapest, Orbán said that since the fall of communism, the city had gone through two phases. In the first, under the liberal mayor, Gábor Demszky, the city was “filthy, reeking and its development stalled”. It was “unworthy of being the country’s capital,” Orbán said, adding that the government had been forced to bail out Budapest from 200 billion forints (EUR 607.8m) of debt.

“I don’t understand how honouring Gábor Demszky can even be considered,” Orbán said, referring to Mayor Gergely Karácsony’s plan to award honorary citizenships to the former mayors, Demszky and István Tarlós. “Would that be for the insolvency or for ruining the city? And humiliating [Fidesz-backed former mayor] István Tarlós by making him take the honour alongside him is pure insolence,” Orbán said.

Orbán said Tarlós had saved Budapest from insolvency and “got the city in order”, so that Budapest was now one of the most dynamically developing cities in Europe. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it stays that way and the Demszky era doesn’t return,” Orbán said.

Commenting on investment projects in the capital, he said the standpoint of the municipal council was putting the fate of three stadiums in question including the Bozsik Stadium, a UEFA category 4 stadium under construction in the 14th district; an athletics stadium purposed to host the 2023 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships; and a stadium for the European Men’s Handball Championship which will be hosted by Hungary and Slovakia in 2022. Referring to the Liget project, a museums quarter planned by the state in the capital’s City Park, he said for cultural investment projects it is also necessary to wait for the decision of the municipal council.

The Left-liberal Opposition Takes Over Budapest

Orbán said he would maintain the position that any development project the city’s leadership disagrees with should not be carried out.

The prime minister said he wouldn’t like to “tear down” any projects in the capital, but acknowledged that a decision by city leaders could mean that some state-funded investments “will not materialise in Budapest”.

“If the new city leadership does not want Budapest to be among the sporting capitals of the world, a clear decision has to be taken and the government will adapt to this situation,” Orbán said.

Commenting on Hungary’s economy protection action plan, he said that since “the European economy does not look good”, Hungary must make decisions guaranteeing that economic growth stays at 2 percent above the European Union average.

One of the important proposal packages has already been approved by the government, he said. This applies to the modernisation of the vocational training system in order to ensure that increasingly well-prepared young people get into the workforce, he added.

Commenting on Brexit, he said the agreement between London and the EU would protect the interests of Hungarians in the UK. The British government has already approved the basic principles of the agreement, he said, adding that Brexit was now only a technical issue because “the Brits are essentially out of the EU”.

Featured photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI