Viktor Orbán (left) at the NATO summit – Photo: PMO

NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan raises spectre of new migration waves, foreign minister says

Orbán: Next decade to bring epidemics, mass migration

NATO and its member states must be prepared to face challenges posed by epidemics and mass migration in the coming decade, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Monday, ahead of a one-day summit of NATO in Brussels. Concerning the summit, Orbán said that participants could make it a "turning point" by adopting the organisation's new strategic plan for up to 2030, and he expressed support for the draft.

Orbán said the new strategy was aimed at strengthening “national resistance capabilities”, adding that Hungary actively contributed to such efforts “whether it is the fight against the coronavirus or against migration”.

“We have something to say and we have something to contribute,” the prime minister said.

Concerning a commitment NATO’s members have made to raising their defence spending to 2 percent of their GDP, Orbán said: “We’ll be good once we deliver on our commitments.” He said Hungary would reach that goal by 2022-23, adding that he wished Hungary were in that position already. He noted, however, that some NATO members were further off that target. Hungary, he added, has already met another commitment to use 20 percent of its defence budget on developments, and the country was in the “forefront” in respect of those obligations.

“We live in a place where you cannot exist without an army, where there is no security without the military,” Orbán said. Having military capabilities and an operational military force “will always be crucial for Hungarian families and for the Hungarian nation”, he said, adding that building those capacities was “in the course of making good progress”. The military “fell in neglect for the past 20-30 years, but now I think we are putting Hungary back on the map,” he added.

Answering a question about challenges posed by China, Orbán said that Hungary was against any kind of cold war. He said he had spent 26 years of his life among such circumstances and insisted that “it is a bad thing, believe me, we should not do that”.

Szijjarto: NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan raises spectre of new migration waves

NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan raises the spectre of new migration waves from the region and warrants new scrutiny of the matter, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Monday.

Szijjarto told a press conference on the sidelines of a one-day NATO summit in Brussels that unless Afghanistan can be stabilised after the withdrawal of the troops, it will again become a hotbed of terrorism and people smuggling, and “tens or hundreds of thousands, or maybe millions will make their way to Europe from there.”

“Unless we can ensure peace and calm in the region, and avoid it becoming the hotbed of terrorism, we’ll face new serious migration challenges,” Szijjarto said.

He noted that Hungary, in light of NATO’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, has brought home all Hungarian soldiers who had served there.

The minister stressed the importance of controlling the pandemic speedily and effectively by allies to the East and South. With this in mind, Hungary is providing 80 ventilators to five countries in need through the NATO Coronavirus Eradication Fund, with 30 going to Bosnia and Herzegovina, twenty to Moldova, ten to Tunisia, ten to Jordan and ten to Ukraine, he noted.

Commenting on NATO’s relations with Russia and China, Szijjarto said: “We live in central Europe; we know all too well how bad the Cold War was. Central Europe has always lost out in the conflict between East and West … It is in our national security interest that as civilised and constructive dialogue as possible should take place between East and West.”

The minister said Hungary had recently received recognition for the development of air defence capabilities, having set up the Central European Division Headquarters, and the development of sniper units. Hungary is thereby contributing to the enhancement of NATO’s strength, he added.

Meanwhile, he said Hungary-Ukraine ties had witnessed various confidence-building measures such as the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates and unimpeded travel between the two countries. However, implementation has been sticky on the Ukrainian side, he said, adding that Hungary has asked Kiev to make sure border traffic flows in accordance with their bilateral agreement.

“There are positive signs … giving cause for cautious optimism,” Szijjarto said, noting improved cooperation on the Joint Committee on Education. “Still, we expect our Ukrainian colleagues to return the rights taken away from the Hungarian national community,” the minister said.

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