Budapest, July 26 (MTI) – Hungary is committed to doing everything it can to be “the best possible neighbour and partner” of Austria, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said after talks with Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern in Budapest on Tuesday.
Orbán said the two countries’ situation differs in terms of migration, adding that Hungary’s interest lies in “perfectly” observing international laws.
Hungary understands Austria’s need to introduce strict controls along its eastern border, Orbán said, but added that the best way to manage migration is for the two countries to join forces in protecting the Hungarian-Serbian border.
But Hungary has asked Austria to explore further means to help, primarily by sending even more officers to the border, Orbán added.
He said that in line with international agreements, Hungary will take back any migrants from Austria that first entered the EU through Hungary. They will then immediately be sent back to their countries of origin, as per Hungary’s readmission agreements with the western Balkan states.
Orbán said Hungary has now fully sealed its border with Serbia. He noted that under the country’s criminal code, no one is allowed to stay illegally in Hungary and therefore migrants who had entered the country illegally cannot pass through to Austria either. If Hungary can keep stopping illegal entrants, it can also protect Austria from illegal immigration, he insisted.
Asked about migrants who are entering Austria from Hungary despite the strict regulations, Orbán said their passage into that country was made possible by a European Commission ruling that obliged Hungary to wind up its closed refugee reception centres. If Hungary could require migrants to wait for the completion of their asylum procedures in closed facilities then none of them would be entering Austria, he said.
Answering another question, Orbán said the Hungarian government supports civil groups helping migrants, adding, however, that most of the help from civil groups is needed on the Serbian side of the border. He said there are currently 600 to 1,000 migrants waiting to be let in to Hungary.
But Hungarian authorities only allow as many people into the transit zone as they can do checks on, Orbán said. Hungary’s view is that “every single migrant carries a public security and terror risk” and it can take months to determine how big that risk is or if it exists at all, he said.
Orbán said his talks with Kern were successful and that their meeting strengthened the political foundations Hungary and Austria needed to “open a new chapter” in their relations.
The prime minister noted that Austria is Hungary’s second biggest trading partner. Some 3,000 Austrian companies are present in Hungary employing 70,000 people.
Orbán said Hungary’s Eximbank has opened a 500 million forint (EUR 1.6m) credit line to support business activities between Hungarian and Austrian companies.
When asked about supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Orbán said the US Democratic Party’s foreign policy was “bad for Europe and fatal for Hungary”. In turn, the foreign and migration policy offered by Trump and the Republicans is good for Europe “and means survival for Hungary”, he said. One foreign policy is for migration while the other is against it; one favours democracy promotion while the other opposes it, he added. Orbán said Hungary is against migration as well as “exporting democracy”. This stance makes its interest clear, he said, stressing that Hungary does not intend to interfere in the US presidential election, which he said is an internal affair of the American people.
Kern echoed Orbán’s sentiments, saying that the two countries are on the right track towards improving cooperation and making their relations more transparent.
The Hungarian position is clear: those who first entered the EU in Greece should be returned there. Austria is aware of the related dispute between the European Commission and Hungary, and considers it important to clarify the issue, the chancellor said.
Hungary’s justice ministry will provide documents related to border control to the Austrian authorities so that the latter be able to scrutinise the Hungarian position, he said.
If the measures agreed upon prove to be effective by September, namely the number of illegal migrants entering Austria is stabilised or reduced, Austria may provide further assistance in border control, he said.
It is a matter of disputes in Austria whether the current measures are satisfactory or border control should be tightened, the chancellor said, adding that closing the Hungarian-Austrian border is not a primary option.
In response to a question, Kern said that Austria and Germany “had profited” from Hungary’s measures taken on the Serbian border, with immigration in both countries showing a major decline.
Orbán and Kern also discussed prospects of economic cooperation and agreed to examine the chance of opening new border crossings.
Both leaders expressed their condolences to the families of the victims of Tuesday’s terrorist attack in Normandy, France.