Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the European Union should be prepared for new migration waves and ready to protect its external borders, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said after talks with Nikos Dendias, his Greek counterpart, in Athens on Thursday.
The pandemic presents a new source of danger when it comes to migration, Szijjártó told a joint press conference with Dendias, arguing that the virus had been especially hard on countries that migrants had already been fleeing for Europe.
Szijjártó said Greece and Hungary were both protecting the EU’s external borders, adding that over the past five years both had constantly experienced the challenges, dangers and security risks posed by migration.
He called on Brussels to refrain from remarks that could be interpreted by migrants as “invitations”, saying that the bloc needed to make it clear that illegal entry into a country was a crime to be sanctioned in line with national and international laws.
Szijjártó added, at the same time, that Budapest and Athens disagreed on the concept of mandatory migrant settlement quotas, which he said Hungary opposed in all its forms.
“At the same time we’re prepared to provide assistance and development support to the migrants’ countries of origin,” the minister said.
He proposed that Hungary and Greece should cooperate in the implementation of jointly financed development schemes aimed at improving the security and living conditions of Middle Eastern Christian communities.
The two ministers also signed a tourism agreement and touched on boosting cooperation in the field of energy in the form of linking their gas pipeline networks. If all goes to plan, this could provide a new resource in Hungary’s energy supply by 2022-2023, Szijjártó said.
featured image via Mátyás Borsos/MTI/KKM