The European Commission's building in Brussels – Photo: wikipedia

Szijjarto: Brussels migration policies creating difficulties for European, north African countries

Brussels "should immediately stop its aggressive pro-migration policies because they are creating an extremely difficult situation" for European and north African countries, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Wednesday, after a meeting of the Hungary-Tunisia mixed committee.
21. June 2023 16:56

The ministry cited Szijjarto telling a joint press conference with Tunisian counterpart Nabil Ammar that Europe was simultaneously faced with two serious security challenges: the war to the east and waves of migration from the south.

He said it was high time to “turn up the volume in the pro-peace camp” because “failing to do that, louder pro-war voices might … appear to be in the majority, and this is not the case”.

Szijjarto talked about the dramatic increase in food prices and a severe grain supply crisis in Tunisia and other parts of the world. He said the effects of the armed conflict in Ukraine could destabilise an already fragile region and result in further security challenges.

“Looking beyond the European or transatlantic bubble … we see that the majority of countries in the world want peace,” he said. “And we’re glad to welcome the foreign minister of a country today that, like Hungary, is also part of the global pro-peace majority.”

He said Hungary was in a special situation due to its geographical location, being subject to the dual pressure of the war to the east and migratory waves from the south.

“Unfortunately, we are witnessing migration gaining fresh impetus because the decision in Brussels which forced a mandatory resettlement quota on Europe is essentially an invitation to migrants,” he said. This, he added, created “an extremely difficult situation” not only for European countries but also for north African countries along migrant routes, because they are under the threat of being “overrun” by the migrants who “show no respect for their sovereignty and legal regulations”.

He called for greater support from Brussels for the protection of Tunisia’s borders, adding that if necessary, Hungary was willing to offer this bilaterally.

Szijjarto noted that trade between Hungary and Tunisia hit a record high of 260 million euros last year, while so far this year it has increased by 22 percent. Tunisia presents Hungarian companies with great opportunities, and their products are much sought after, he said, noting the areas of agriculture and the food industry, medical equipment and water management.

He announced that starting from the next academic year, Hungary will offer 250 scholarships to Tunisian students as against the current 200, in response to great demand.

The ministry said that Szijjarto told a Hungary-Tunisia business forum that thanks to a reliable partnership between the two countries, all the conditions are set for companies to utilise the opportunities in cooperation. He added that Hungary and Tunisia maintained reliable and predictable cooperation based on mutual respect.

There are no open issues or disputes in bilateral political relations, either, he said.

“We Hungarians, stayed away in the last few years from the European Union’s attempts to pressure Tunisia into changes in its domestic politics,” he said. Hungary was never part of the “mainstream political action” that questioned the democratic system in Tunisia, he added.

“Our approach in every situation was that Tunisians are mature enough to decide what’s good for them,” he said. “If they decided in a certain way, then our job is only to respect that, the same way they respect our decisions,” he added.

Szijjarto said that opportunities that exist for Hungarian and Tunisian companies open further perspectives in bilateral ties and they demonstrate the level of diversification in the Hungarian economy. He highlighted flagship projects that could encourage more companies to get involved. He welcomed the construction of a premix plant in Tunisia, and another Hungarian company’s plan to build a camel milk processing plant in Tunisia representing a value of 8 million euros.

He said there was strong interest for Hungarian agricultural and food products, partly thanks to the fact that Hungary followed the strictest regulations in Europe in this field.

Hungarian companies have the opportunity to be involved in infrastructure development in Tunisia, such as in railway construction, and high-level Hungarian water management technologies are also sought after in Tunisia, he said.

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