The shift in the Balkans migration route is a joint Hungarian and Serbian success
16. 04. 2019.
At a press conference in Szabadka/Subotica on Monday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán described the shift in the Balkans migration route as a joint Hungarian and Serbian success. Mr. Orbán was speaking alongside Prime Minister of Serbia Ana Brnabić after the fifth joint sitting of the Hungarian and Serbian cabinets.

Mr. Orbán responded to a question by pointing out that Serbia’s acceptance of the fence built by Hungary on its southern border was a generous gesture, which was also beneficial for Serbia. This, he said, is because migrants are now avoiding Serbia, as there is no point in coming through that country if they cannot then enter Hungary.

He noted that the Balkans route must be closely monitored, however, as “there is a huge supply of potential migrants”, but at present “the real threat” is not from the Balkans, but much rather from Africa.

He added that the future of Europe might easily be divided into a Western European future and a Central European future, defined by the sizes of Muslim communities in each region. He said that in the West co-existence between the Christian and non-Christian communities will determine the political agenda for many decades, but highlighted that by contrast “we here in Central Europe have defended our identity and our ethnic composition, and therefore don’t have that problem”. He described the problem in Central Europe as being “how to prevent the arrival in Hungary and Central Europe of communities that we do not welcome here – whether they come from the South or the West”.

At the same time, the Prime Minister stressed that Hungary is spending more than most would expect from it through the Hungary Helps Programme, which takes help to places where there are problems – in order “to prevent the problems coming here”.

Photo: Balázs Szecsődi

He said that “We already know that the Hungarian people support this policy, but in my view the upcoming elections to the European Parliament can give further confirmation of this.”

At the press conference Mr. Orbán said that he supports Serbia’s earliest possible accession to the EU, and that its accession is the next historic task, which will benefit both Serbs and Hungarians, and is needed by the EU. “Unless the EU undertakes another major mission, its performance will decline”, he said, adding that “Serbia’s earliest possible accession to the EU is in the interest of every Member State”.

The Prime Minister observed that an era in the history of Europe will soon come to an end, when Central European countries match the economic performance of the EU’s founding states. He noted that without Central Europe there would be no growth at all in the EU today, and therefore further enlargement of the bloc is not only beneficial for the new entrants, but also for current Member States.

The Prime Minister spoke about the modernisation of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line, which could reduce the travel time from its current seven or eight hours to just two or three hours. He also mentioned construction of the missing sections of railway lines linking Szabadka/Subotica with both Szeged and Baja. He said that this and the lines’ modernisation “will benefit everyone living in this region”. Answering a question about these regional lines, he pointed out that Hungary has appointed “someone with full powers” to re-establish the entire system of rail transport between Hungary and Serbia: Government Commissioner and Fidesz Member of Parliament János Lázár.

Photo: Balázs Szecsődi

Mr. Orbán also said that he respects the Serbian request that when supporting projects Hungary should regard Serbia as a unified national economy: “Serbia belongs to the Serbs”, he said, adding that “We are happy to cooperate if it’s made clear to us which areas we are welcome in.”

He expressed the hope that the opening of new border-crossing stations and infrastructure projects between the two countries will also have a beneficial effect on the economy. He promised that Hungary will continue its cross-border investment policy, always in close cooperation with the relevant country’s government.

He said that he regards both Hungary and Serbia as countries which only grow in times of political stability. In this respect he praised Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabić and head of state Aleksandar Vučić for the political stability they have created in Serbia.

Regarding the Hungarian community in Vojvodina, the Prime Minister welcomed the Serbian government’s decisions for cultural autonomy, which “have no equal anywhere in Europe”.

Photo: Balázs Szecsődi

The Hungarian prime minister was asked about reports that at an opposition demonstration held in Belgrade on Saturday, Sergej Trifunović, head of the party Movement of Free Citizens, made offensive comments about Hungarians, among others. Mr. Trifunović said that Mr. Vučić “is populating Serbia with Syrians and Hungarians”. In response to this Mr. Orbán said that “we’d be happy to supply Hungarians, but we don’t even have enough of them at home”.

In relation to this he mentioned the issue of demography, saying that today more people are coming back to Hungary than are leaving it, and that he expects this to become a major trend in the next two or three years, with “spectacularly more people coming back than those leaving”. He pointed out that today’s Hungarian wage levels and housing and family support measures mean that over a period of ten years it can be calculated that one could gain more in Hungary than abroad.

In closing, Mr. Orbán invited his Serbian counterpart to make an official visit to Hungary and to take part in the next joint government meeting.