A tunnel under the Hungarian-Serbian border – Photo: police.hu

Expelling people smugglers ‘not directed against any country’, minister says

Hungary's expelling imprisoned people smugglers is "not directed against any of its neighbours", Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in Brussels on Monday.

Szijjarto said that Austria’s stepping up border controls was “no news”, adding that “Austria has been making entry increasingly difficult for months or years”.

Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of the EU’s foreign affairs council, Szijjarto said he had talked to Alexander Shallenberg, his Austrian counterpart, who had indicated that Hungary’s expelling people smugglers was problematic for his country.

Szijjarto said the Hungarian government had made a “sovereign Hungarian decision not directed against any neighbouring country” in particular. He said people smugglers “had better not even consider coming to Hungary” and pledged a continued stringent approach to border violators and to “people smugglers encouraging, helping or transporting them”.

Concerning Austria, he said it was increasingly difficult for Hungarians and other nationals to enter Austria, whereas “Austrians can enter Hungary freely and without waiting [at the border], Hungarians have to wait, sometimes wait long, before they can enter Austria; their threatening to introduce border controls is no novelty”.

Szijjarto was asked about a proposal to replace the requirement of a unanimous decision by a supermajority in European foreign policy making, and he said “the abolition of a unanimous vote would obviously lead to the big countries passing the decisions while the small countries’ position would not count … this would give a chance to decisions against Hungary’s national interests”. He added that the EU could “only be strong if its member states are strong” as against endeavours seeking to build a European superstate through weakening the position of members”.

He insisted it was “not by accident” that the criteria of unanimous consent was included in the EU treaties. “If one seeks to change that, they will question the ideal of the European Union, casting doubt on the will of the founders,” he said.

Referring to press reports suggesting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had alluded to a possible sabotage against the Druzhba oil pipeline, Szijjarto said in Brussels “they are trying to pretend not be aware as they usually do”, noting that the leaked US documents had not made the front page in the “liberal, fantastically objective and free European press”.

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