Hungary's border with Serbia – Photo: wikipedia

Central Europe to be among biggest winners of new global economy, minister says

Szijjarto: Building border fences ‘only effective way’ to stop migration

The only effective way to stop illegal migration is to build border fences, Peter Szijjarto, the foreign minister, told a joint press conference held with his Latvian counterpart, Edgars Rinkevic, on Monday.

He added that it was “absurd” that the European Union was still unwilling to finance the operation of Hungary’s border protection efforts.

Szijjarto said the pressure on Europe from the south, south-east and east was “unprecedented”. Now Latvia, Lithuania and Poland are confronted with the same challenges Hungary has been dealing with since 2015, he added.

Without fences, he said, no police or military force would be able to protect hundreds of kilometers of borders.

It was hard to comprehend why the European Commission was “financing everything that increases migration”, he said, rather than finding an effective means to curb it. “It’s like they’re not on this planet”, blocking support for countries that operate fences, he said.

The minister called on the EU to abandon “efforts aimed at altering the composition of Europe’s population”.

Meanwhile, on the subject of EU enlargement, Szijjarto said integration was taking place so slowly that “looking at this honestly, it’s not progressing at all”. Hungary and the bloc’s security and economic interests were not served by thwarting integration, which, he added, was the surest way to achieve stability and peace in the region.

On the subject of Covid-19, Szijjarto said Hungary’s government was helping Latvia in its actions to fight the fourth wave of the pandemic by sending 55 patient monitors and 100 units of intravenous medication equipment to the country.

Addressing defence matter, he noted that the Hungarian army has already participated twice in NATO Baltic airspace control missions, and the next ones would take place from September to December next year and in 2025.

Rinkevic, referring to Belarus, warned about migration being used as a “hybrid weapon”, calling for the EU’s external borders to be strengthened and sanctions administered. He also praised the “friendship and alliance” between Hungary and Latvia, noting common agreement on key challenges such as migration facing the EU.

Answering a journalist’s question concerning Manfred Weber’s comment on EU support for a fence on the Polish-Belarusian border but not for Hungary’s, Szijjarto described the head of the European People’s Party EP group’s comment as “nonsense”, and he called Weber’s attitude “Hungarophobic”.

On the topic of the Pegasus scandal, the minister insisted that none of Hungary’s intelligence services had “eavesdropped on anyone illegally” since 2010. The Information Office, he added, had not purchased the Israeli spyware.

Central Europe to be among biggest winners of new global economy

Central Europe could become one of the biggest winners of the new global economy thanks to stability, sensible economic policies and security policies focusing on national interests, Szijjarto told a Hungary-Poland business forum on Monday, adding that relations between the two countries could be best described as being fraternal.

“We must not tolerate being scorned and handled in Europe as pure beneficiaries of cooperation any longer,” he said. Hungarian and Polish people equally contribute with their work to the generation of community resources, he added.

Central Europe has greatly benefitted from pursuing “policies based on common sense” and the region has consequently become one of the most attractive targets for investment in recent years, Szijjarto said. He noted low taxes on labour, which he said the Hungarian government planned to further reduce, and efforts to guarantee people’s safety.

If the Visegrad Group’s four members were to form a state, it would be the second largest country and the third largest market in the European Union, Szijjarto said. He noted that Germany’s trade with the V4 was twice as much as with France last year.

At the same time, the region still needs to overcome certain disadvantages in competitiveness. A high-speed rail network must be built and road transport further improved with the help of joint efforts, he added. The integration of the Western Balkans would greatly strengthen competitiveness even further, Szijjarto said.

In terms of Hungary-Poland economic ties, Szijjarto said Poland was Hungary’s fourth most important trading partner last year, with the value of trade exceeding 10 billion euros. This accounted for some 5 percent of Hungary’s total foreign trade. In the first eight months of this year, bilateral trade increased by 22 percent to 8 billion euros and its value is expected to be record high for the whole of 2021, he said.

There are no open issues between the governments in Budapest and Warsaw, and there is consent in the most important European issues, Szijjarto said, noting the protection of national sovereignty and the concept of a strong EU based on strong nation states.

He also discussed the topic of energy crisis, stating that central European states shared the same view in terms of recognising nuclear energy as a sustainable energy source. Vertical transport routes for gas supplies will soon be completed for the region allowing Hungary access to LNG terminals in Poland, Szijjarto added.

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