The Austrian People’s Party (OVP) was “very rational” in the debate over Fidesz within the European People’s Party (EPP), Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s foreign minister, said in an interview published by the APA news agency on Wednesday.
The OVP politicians’ attitude to Hungary was “soberminded”, even if “this was not always detectable in the vote”.
The majority of EPP and OVP lawmakers voted in favour of launching an Article 7 procedure against Hungary in the European Parliament.
Szijjártó called Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz a “close friend”, adding that their friendship dated back to their period of being the youngest European foreign ministers in office. He said they had agreed on issues concerning Europe’s future and supported one another.
Szijjártó said the EPP had “shifted to the left considerably” over the past few years. The minister insisted that Fidesz had suspended exercising its rights in the EPP in March 2019 while charges related to its violation of the EU’s fundamental rights are investigated. Fidesz, he added, continued to pursue the policy embraced by EPP upon its accession to the party alliance. Meanwhile, however, the EPP has itself changed as a result of its “grand coalition with the Social Democrats in the EP”, the minister said, adding that Fidesz could not accept this.
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Szijjártó expressed hope that the EPP would return to representing Christian Democratic values. Should it fail to do so, “we will take the necessary steps.”
We wouldn’t like to belong to a pro-migration party alliance that defames European values”
He insisted that Fidesz pursues a Christian Democratic policy based on national values. It is due to this policy, he said, that Fidesz has become “Europe’s most successful party”.
Szijjártó said Fidesz was looking forward to the debate the EPP planned regarding the party, “if it is given a chance to participate in it”.
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Szijjártó and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Monday paid a visit to Berlin and held talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the acting leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. Assessing the visit, Szijjártó highlighted Hungary’s strong economic and trade relations with Germany, while noting considerable differences in the two countries’ migration policy.
“We think that the preservation of Christian European culture must be a priority in Europe; and we must protect our borders to achieve that,” Szijjártó said.
He said the idea that Europe should formulate a common European migration policy had failed, arguing the right “cannot be taken away” from any European member state to decide on whom it wants to live with or whom it allows entering its territory.
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As regards disputes over the 2021-2027 EU budget, Szijjártó said Brussels, when formulating the budget, should recognise the economic performance of central European countries, especially since their economies have posted the bloc’s highest rate of growth.
Speaking about Hungarian-Austrian relations, Szijjártó called the neighbouring country an important ally and “a good friend”. He noted that Austria is Hungary’s third largest foreign investor and its second major trading partner.
As regards migration, Szijjártó said that the two countries have a similar approach to the issue, despite differences in their opinion on certain aspects such as Austrian border control. “What’s most important is that we respect one another’s views,” the Hungarian foreign minister said.
Featured photo illustration by Mátyás Borsos/Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade