We want peace and a ceasefire
16. 11. 2022.
At this time, we must strive for one thing: averting the threat, and we can only avert the direct threat that is facing us with a ceasefire, “we want peace and a ceasefire,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Wednesday in Belgrade.

The Prime Minister had talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer. At a joint press conference held after the meeting, he highlighted that on Tuesday Polish nationals had died, “and it is very important to offer our condolences, and to understand that as there is a war right next door to us, we are in danger”.

He took the view that “we are in danger economically, but also physically”. The fact that Poland has lost lives in its own territory clearly shows that “if there is a war under way in the territory of your neighbour, you yourself are not safe either,” he pointed out.

The Prime Minister added that the fact that the supply of oil to Hungary from the East had stopped on Tuesday clearly showed that the economy, too, was in danger.

He stressed that “if you yourself, your citizens and your economy are in danger, then you must strive for one thing: you must strive to avert that danger”. There is only one way to do so: with a ceasefire; “we want peace and a ceasefire,” Mr Orbán stated.

The Prime Minister said Hungary continues to urge the European Union to make Serbia’s full membership possible within the shortest possible time. Serbia’s membership of the European Union is a European interest, and we would be much better-equipped to protect ourselves against migration if Serbia, too, were within the European Union, he added.

Photo: Zoltán Fischer/Prime Minister’s Press Office

He stressed that “Serbia should have been admitted yesterday or the day before yesterday; if that were the case, today we would be in an easier situation”. By virtue of its weight on the international scene, Hungary is unable to bring this issue to a resolution in the European Union, but can build an alliance with countries that support enlargement, he laid down. He said in the second half of 2024 Hungary will hold the presidency of the EU, and if there is no meaningful success until then, during that period Hungary could facilitate the process.

He said Serbia is a key country to European security, and when Serbia protects its own borders, it does not only protect itself, but also Hungary, Austria and the entire European Union. Therefore, it is clear that Serbia’s membership of the European Union is a European interest, he explained.

He said until this happens, the only goal we can pursue is to push our lines of defence as far South as possible, and to create a joint border protection force together with Serbia and Austria. Hungary will immediately make available the personnel and technical equipment necessary for the purpose, he laid down.

According to Mr Orbán, “the trouble that we call migration will remain with us for a long time,” and so we must strive for long-term cooperation and long-term structures.

He argued that Hungary was in a special situation, “we are directly under dual pressure;” on the one hand, there is the pressure of the war from the direction of neighbouring Ukraine, and on the other, there is the pressure of migration from the direction of Serbia.

He said the Hungarian and Serbian nations share a common fate which means that they are together in good times and bad, they help each other. “As we share a common fate, we must cooperate with each other,” and Aleksandar Vucic is the best Serbian partner in that in the history of Hungary to date, he pointed out.

Photo: Zoltán Fischer/Prime Minister’s Press Office

Mr Orbán said so far this year as many as 250,000 illegal border-crossing attempts had been foiled, and “not only are they ever more numerous, but they are also ever more aggressive,” these days, people smugglers not only carry weapons, but at times they also use them against members of the Hungarian authorities protecting the border.

He took the view that the meeting they had just had was important for the entire Balkans region because “the entire Balkans region is suffering from migration”. He said migration should be stopped, not managed, “migrants will only stop coming to your country in one case, and one case only,” if they know that they will not succeed. We must make it clear that “no one can enter our countries illegally,” he laid down.

The Prime Minister highlighted that since 2015 Hungary had spent some EUR 1.6 billion on border protection, and Brussels had only reimbursed 1.2 per cent of that sum; meaning that “evidently, we can only count on ourselves”.

In answer to a question, the Prime Minister said there are refugees who are governed by the international rules on asylum and there are guest workers who are issued with work and residency permits by a given country. These two categories are legally regulated. However, the category of ‘migrant’ is not legally regulated, and so it is “illegal by definition,” he pointed out.

He said a migrant is a person who attempts to cross borders illegally, and action must be taken against any illegal act by operation of law. “We’re talking about countries of consequence here, Hungary, too, is a country of consequence, it has rules and upholds those rules, if necessary, with force,” he said.

Mr Orbán also said at present the only pipeline that conveys gas of meaningful quantities to Hungary comes from Serbia. For many long years earlier, gas was conveyed to Serbia from Hungary which clearly indicates that the two countries can rely on each other, he laid down.

Prior to the press conference, the parties signed a memorandum of understanding about the reinforcement of cooperation in the fight against illegal migration.