Hungary's border fence – Photo: wikipedia

Szijjarto: EU ties to southern neighbours should rest on efforts to stop migration

The European Union's relations with its southern neighbours should be determined by efforts to stop migration, Peter Szijjarto, the minister of foreign affairs and trade, said on Monday.

Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Szijjarto said northbound migration into the EU could be stopped only in close cooperation with countries in north Africa and the Middle East.

He said that migration, besides presenting cultural and security threats, also presented a “very serious” health risk.

“It is in Europe’s security interest to stop migration. The discussion should focus on stopping rather than handling migration,” Szijjarto said in a video on Facebook.

The Visegrad Group has started cooperation with Morocco, Libya and Tunisia to curb the waves of illegal migration, he noted.

Resettlement quotas should not be mandatory in the EU as this encourages human smugglers and migrants, he said.

Regarding the discussion on EU-Russia ties, Szijjarto said the matter should be approached strategically and “not narrowed down to sanctions or the issues around Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny.”

Ties with Moscow have an impact on issues such as trade, the handling of conflicts that pose security risks, international cooperation in energy supply, and the effort against the coronavirus, he said.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the value of international cooperation has grown, he said.

Regarding Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, Szijjarto said: “The best vaccine is the one that gets here and is ready to be administered to Hungarians.”

“Hungary is still working to procure the largest possible amount of all the vaccines approved by Hungarian experts at the fastest possible pace, because that is the way to protect them from the pandemic,” Szijjarto said.

Regarding the debate on the ties between the EU and the US, Szijjarto said Hungary’s partnership with the US was based on “significant economic, defence and political cooperation”.

“The Hungarian government is committed to maintaining and, if necessary, improving a high-level political network” in the US, he said.

On another topic, Szijjarto noted the “serious disruptions” to freight transport caused by recent German border restrictions. The minister said he agreed with his Czech, Austrian and Luxemburg counterparts to inform each other regarding the situation.

Szijjarto said he would participate in a vote in parliament scheduled for later on Monday on extending the special legal order with a view to curbing the coronavirus pandemic in the country. “The lives and safety of Hungarians and a speedy relaunch of the economy can only be ensured if the government has the means to act swiftly and effectively,” Szijjarto said.

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