Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Minister warns of rapid rise in migration on Balkans route

Szijjarto discusses migration, current affairs with Cypriot counterpart

Hungary and Cyprus have the same views on key European issues such as migration, the European Union's enlargement in the Western Balkans, European energy supply and coronavirus vaccines, the foreign minister said.

Peter Szijjarto told a joint press conference after the talks in Budapest on Tuesday that Hungary and Cyprus both experienced illegal migration first-hand, with Cyprus facing a “constant inflow” of migrants, and the pressure growing on Hungary’s southern border again.

Unless the European Union’s migration policy changes course, the member states on its outer borders will face “a difficult situation and serious pressure,” Szijjarto said. “It is time the EU spoke clearly and stopped the two-faced communication migrants interpret as an invitation,” he said.

He called on the EU to speak in clear terms of the importance of border protection, which he called a “security issue rather than a human rights one”.

Cyprus and Hungary both support the EU’s enlargement in the Western Balkans, Szijjarto said. Without enlargement, the region’s stability is at risk which would make an important migration route into the EU “fair game”, he said.

Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, Szijjarto noted that Hungary and Cyprus had agreed in the summer to honour each other’s vaccination certificates. Tourism between the two countries is ongoing, and no restrictions are expected against each other’s citizens, he said.

Szijjarto and Nikos Christodoulides signed a memorandum of understanding on diplomatic consultation after talks in Budapest on Tuesday.

Christodoulides said the document was key to ongoing cooperation between the two countries. He said the key areas of cooperation between Hungary and Cyprus were tourism, migration and climate protection.

Although there are differences in the views of the two countries “on certain issues”, those do not impact their agreement on diplomatic issues, Christodoulides said. He said Turkey was obstructing Cyprus in “solving problems on the Mediterranean,” and violated Cyprus’s airspace and maritime borders in the process. He called on Hungary to stand by Cyprus in its appeal to other countries “not to allow Turkey to do so”.

Minister warns of rapid rise in migration on Balkans route

The number of migrants attempting to illegally enter the European Union through the Western Balkans is rising rapidly and has exceeded 82,000 to date this year, Hungary’s foreign ministry cited Szijjarto as saying at a Vienna conference on migration on Tuesday. Attempts to cross the border are recorded day by day in Hungary, he said, noting that the government had spent 1.2 billion euros on defending the borders since 2015.

Szijjarto noted that six years ago the European Union had harshly criticised Hungary’s government for erecting a fence along the southern border, with some going as far as to compare the country to the darkest dictatorial regimes of the 20th century.

“Now the same countries are roundly praising those who are building fences to defend the EU’s external borders,” he said.

Szijjarto expressed concern over “irresponsible statements by Brussels institutions and western European politicians” that can be interpreted as “an invitation” by those heading for Europe for reasons whatsoever.

The situation is even more tense than it was in 2015 as the four million internally displaced persons who most probably wish to leave Afghanistan are expected to increase migratory pressure, he said.

The minister reiterated that mandatory migrant quotas should be discarded once and for all, and no one should encourage potential migrants to leave their homeland.

“To be honest, sometimes I don’t know if the Brussels bureaucrats want to halt or encourage migration,” he said.

Szijjarto said that migration policy should remain under national control, with all member states having the right to decide whom to allow to enter their territory.

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