Everything stands or falls on the closure of borders
16. 12. 2016.
In Brussels on Friday, at a press conference held after the meeting of the heads of state and government of the EU Member States, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that in the migration crisis everything stands or falls on whether or not we close our borders.

He said that before the Thursday summit the Visegrád countries had laid down the three most important principles in a joint position: external borders must be protected; those who have entered must be returned; and those who want to enter must be guarded and screened for refugee status in territories outside the EU. These are the three pillars on which the position of the V4 rests, he said.

Mr. Orbán stressed that Hungary is successfully protecting its borders. Greece is unable to close its borders, however, while Italy is either unable or unwilling to do so. “From a European point of view, the situation in Italy is dramatic”, he added.

The Prime Minister observed that, regardless of the intentions of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the situation in Turkey is fragile, and this is a risk factor. Therefore the question is whether another wave of refugees could flow through the Western Balkans route in the future, he said.

Mr. Orbán said that this cannot be ruled out, but Hungary is able – on its own if need be – to limit and halt a migrant flow of any volume at its own borders, and to protect the interior of Europe.

Mr. Orbán added that in his view the responsibility lies with Brussels for allowing rejected asylum-seekers to leave Hungary for the West. He stressed that Brussels could redress the situation by altering the “unrealistic” rule under which asylum-seekers who appeal in court against the rejection of their applications may not currently be held in custody. He added that this proposed alteration was not accepted at the prime ministers’ meeting the previous day.

The Prime Minister believes it to be an important achievement that at the summit it was agreed that the EU must enter into agreements with African countries such as the one concluded with Turkey. “In the several instances where we have entered into such agreements and where we have managed to cooperate with the governments of countries of origin, we can see that we have achieved major results in reducing the number of people coming from those countries”, Mr. Orbán said. He specifically highlighted the need for the European Union to also conclude a migration agreement with Egypt.

Photo: Balázs Szecsődi/Prime Minister’s Press Office

He stressed that the Hungarian proposal for refugee camps to be set up and operated outside the territory of the EU, somewhere on the Libyan coast or another suitable area of Africa – which had previously been “branded as inhumane, impossible and mad” – is now gaining acceptance. “We are now talking about how we could accomplish this task, with whom we could come to an agreement, and where such facilities could be set up”, he observed.

Immediate visa-free travel must be offered to Ukraine

At a press conference held after the meeting of the heads of state and government of the EU Member States in Brussels on Friday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán asked what substantive assistance the European Union will extend to Ukraine if not the immediate offer of visa-free travel to its citizens.

Giving an account of the summit meeting which finished the previous night, the Prime Minister asked how the EU could seek to deploy military forces far from Europe without a joint army, when it is not even able to influence military events in Ukraine, and is likewise unable to offer the country’s citizens immediate visa-free travel: a non-military issue. There are no legal obstacles of any kind to the latter measure, and no one has dared to openly argue against it, he said.

He said that, regardless of any differences they may have on the rational and sound policy to be pursued in relation to Russia, on the issue of visa-free travel for Ukrainians the Visegrád countries take a highly pro-Ukraine stance.

Photo: Balázs Szecsődi/Prime Minister’s Press Office

The example of Syria demonstrates that there is a great deal to do in the field of European security

In relation to the situation which has developed in Aleppo, Mr. Orbán observed that the example of Syria clearly demonstrates that there is still much to do with regard to European security.

He said that if Europe does not have sufficient military strength, it will be unable to win militarily, and instead of actually settling the situation in Syria and helping those who live there, it is only able to repeat well-meaning platitudes.

The Prime Minister said that “The NATO Secretary General was a guest of the summit, to assist in avoiding future unnecessary duplications in NATO’s defence systems and the European Union’s prospective defence systems, so that European defence does not find itself in a position opposed to or rivalling NATO”.

In Mr. Orbán’s opinion, after the summit the prime ministers made statements related to the situation in Syria which were resolute and harsh by international standards.

“In the common declaration we can also find some tough wording – but we have to admit that though we have plenty of heart and a loud voice, we lack strength”, he said. He added that in every statement one can detect a degree of frustration stemming from the combination of these three factors.

People in trouble must be helped, and “all speculation and moralising should be left for later”, he said. At present there is only one task, he stressed: lives must be saved, while it is still possible.

Photo: Balázs Szecsődi/Prime Minister’s Press Office

Declaring good intentions is important, of course, because for Europe this is a matter of self-esteem. It is also important for the Syrian people, because, although Europe is not there to help them militarily, it is at least on their side in terms of diplomacy and international criminal law. Well-meaning platitudes, however, do not resolve a situation which others are now seeking to resolve in Syria through military might, Mr. Orbán said.

In answer to a journalist’s question on next year’s election of Hungary’s head of state, the Prime Minister said that he has great respect for President of the Republic János Áder and his work. He stressed that one of the important possible options would be for the current head of state to continue his work, if he wants to. He added that he respects Mr. Áder, and it would be an honour for him to be able to support him.

Listing the topics discussed at the European Council meeting, Mr. Orbán also said that “the European code-name for prohibition of centrally determined reductions in household utility charges” is an Energy Union – the elements of which have yet to be identified.

He said that he had pointed out in the current debate that, while Hungary agrees to the establishment of an Energy Union, the parties will have to reach an agreement on the issue of price regulation. Mr. Orbán observed that mandated reductions in household utility charges – in other words, state price regulation – affect hundreds of thousands of Hungarian families, and there are other countries in addition to Hungary which utterly reject Brussels prohibiting such regulation.