Prime minister Viktor Orbán (l) and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer – Photo: PMO

Nehammer: Hungary key geostrategic partner

Orbán in Vienna: Hungary has ‘fantastic’ results in fighting racism, anti-Semitism

Hungary has achieved "fantastic results" in its fight against racism and anti-Semitism, with "the government at the forefront" of those efforts, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in Vienna on Thursday. After talks with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Orbán told a joint press conference that Hungary had "zero tolerance" for anti-Semitism, and any kind of action in this direction was subject to legal prosecution in Hungary and was not tolerated in political discourse.

“In easy times, friendship is easy; when times are hard, friendship is harder,” Orbán told the press conference. In the current “hard times”, he added, it was a question whether “a special, historical friendship between the two nations will help resolve issues of war, migration, energy, and economic cooperation.” In light of Thursday’s talks, “we can say that we can rely on Austria in the next few years, and vice versa,” the prime minister said.

On the subject of nuclear energy, Orbán said he saw no chance of seeing eye to eye with Austria because “we do not have such rivers and opportunities as our Austrian friends do”, and Hungary cannot go without nuclear energy. While differences persist, the two countries will “try and cooperate and provide mutual security guarantees”, Orbán said.

Concerning the war in Ukraine, Orbán said “it cannot be won in its current form”, and he called for a different strategy, “otherwise there’ll be no peace”. If there is no peace, “problems cannot be solved; we will have no energy and the whole European Union will find itself in a wartime economic situation.” He added that the first sign of a wartime situation would be when “they declare an energy emergency in Brussels; when access to some commodities must be restricted.” A wartime situation could be “much worse than we think”, Orbán said, adding that it was not clear “how we could avoid recession and the resulting unemployment if the war carries on.”

Meanwhile, Orbán noted that 2,000 Austrian companies operate in Hungary, constituting the second largest investment community, without which “the Hungarian economy could not sustain its currently high level”.

Hungary is different from Austria in the sense that “the magnitude of migration and the problems it causes are completely different” in the latter country, Orbán said. “Hungary always protects its borders and thus prevents any illegal migration from reaching Austria,” he said. It is also in Austria’s interest that Hungary should protect its southern borders, he said. “We are your captains at the Serbia-Hungary border”.

On the subject of controversy surrounding a recent speech Orbán gave in Romania, the prime minister said Hungary had achieved “fantastic results” in its fight against racism and anti-Semitism, with “the government at the forefront” of those efforts.

Hungary, he added had “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism, and any kind of action in this direction was subject to legal prosecution in Hungary and was not tolerated in political discourse.

“I asked the chancellor always to interpret any sensitive historical or intellectual issue that arises from Hungary, if there are doubts, as a cultural matter,” he said. “No political issue can be approached from a biological point of view in Hungary; what is possible is a culturally based approach.”

Orbán also said he considered himself “perhaps the only openly anti-immigration politician” in the European Union. “I will not … beat about the bush; I’ll always put forward a very clear and straightforward position … I don’t want Hungary to become a migrant destination,” the prime minister said, adding that mounting migration was undesirable.

“This position is not based on biology: this is not a question of race for us; this is a cultural issue. Putting it very simply: we want to retain our civilisation as it currently is,” the prime minister said.

Concerning the Hungarian government’s opposition to earlier planned sanctions targeting Russian Patriarch Kirill, Orbán said: “On a broader context, in view of the future of European civilisation, the Orthodox Church will always be needed.”

Nehammer: Hungary key geostrategic partner

Hungary is one of Austria’s key geostrategic partners when it comes to security, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer told the press conference. The chancellor talked of a “deep, historical” friendship between Austria and Hungary.

Nehammer said Austria has taken in 80,000 Ukrainian war refugees, adding that his country was also affected by “irregular migration” waves. So far this year, some 31,000 asylum applications have been submitted to the Austrian authorities, mainly by Afghan, Syrian, Iranian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian migrants, he added.

These are the challenges Austria must face in addition to the energy crisis, inflation and the pandemic, which requires cooperation and friendship, Nehammer said, emphasising the importance of Serbia.

He said that at the recommendation of the Hungarian prime minister, Austria, Hungary and Serbia will hold a joint conference on “irregular migration”.

Austrian and Hungarian police officers patrol the common border together already, and more than 50 Austrian officers support Hungarian border protection efforts on the Serbian border, Nehammer said.

Noting the 1,400 Austrian companies working in Hungary, he said the country’s exports to Hungary have grown by 24 percent to 6.1 billion euros. “Austria sees standing by the friendship of the two countries and our successful economic relations as a priority,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said Austria sharply rejected all attempts to relativise racism and anti-Semitism. “Austria, in view of its history, has a particular responsibility in the issue,” he said.

Regarding gas deliveries from Russia, Nehammer said Austria, similarly to Hungary, is greatly dependent on Russian gas, and is working to diversify its supplies.

Nehammer said he argeed with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that the European Commission was “all announcements, no implementation”, and said that a planned joint energy purchase platform had yet to materialise.

Meanwhile, sanctions against Russia would take time to make an impact due to Russia’s size and military prowess, he said.

Austria is staunchly against a gas embargo, as it would lead to mass unemployment in Austrian and German industry, he said.

At the same time, Nehammer said that taking a stand by Ukraine was of key importance: the invasion of a sovereign country “is unacceptable”. “There seems to be no disagreement from Hungary [regarding this point].”

He also said he fully supported Orbán’s view that “the EC and the member states should honour the importance of the influence of the Russian Orthodox church in the region, and especially in the Western Balkans.”

Szijjarto: Hungary, Austria intensify cooperation against illegal migration

Austria and Hungary are intensifying cooperation to contain illegal migration, Peter Szijjarto, Hungary’s foreign minister, said in Vienna. The European Union clearly faces security challenges on several fronts, he told Hungarian public media, adding that “coping with them one at a time would be complicated enough, let alone simultaneously.”

In addition to the war in Ukraine, illegal migration poses an ever growing challenge, Szijjarto said, adding that Hungary has stopped 130,000 illegal migrants from entering along its southern border this year, over twice as many as in 2021.

“What’s more, several armed migrants have attacked one another and the Hungarian border patrols,” he said, adding that 900 migrants have been arrested so far this year.

“Brussels’ pro-migration policies” encourage even greater migration waves, “reinforcing the business models of people smugglers,” Szijjarto said.

“What is people smuggling today will become arms smuggling tomorrow”, deteriorating central Europe’s security prospects, the minister said.

Austria and Hungary have a shared interest in halting migrants as south as possible and stepping up cooperation to this effect, he said.

Austria has offered to help to train members of Hungary’s new border ranger units and increase the number of Serbian border guards serving along the Hungarian-Serbian border, Szijjarto said.

The minister insisted that Brussels should at last take a completely new approach to migration.

“As long as Brussels legally supports and politically inspires migration, we Hungarians and Austrians should make incredible efforts to stop migrants at our border,” Szijjarto said.

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