Hungary has a “serious dispute” with the European Parliament’s LIBE committee over illegal migration, an issue vital for Europe’s future, Hungary’s foreign minister said at a hearing by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in Brussels on Thursday.
The Hungarian government rejects illegal migration and the mandatory migrant distribution quota system designed by Brussels and will continue to fight for the interests and security of the Hungarian people, Péter Szijjártó told the body.
The Hungarian government will not shy away from a debate, but there is a wide gap between the views of Budapest and Brussels on most aspects of the issue, Szijjártó said, adding that their “concepts of nation, respect for traditions, border defence and security are rather distant”.
“When Hungary is being attacked, the target is a country that has become through its own efforts part of the solution from part of the problem,” the minister said.
Hungary’s interest lies in a strong European Union, in which debates about Europe’s future are held “in the spirit of common sense”, he said.
Nobody has said that every migrant is a terrorist, but illegal migration poses a serious threat to the continent as it had been proved by events over the past years, he said. As the EU is facing “the gravest ever terrorist threat”, its security should be restored as soon as possible. Hungary, he said, is taking part in this effort.
Addressing the hearing, representatives of Hungarian rights groups criticised Hungary’s government for restricting fundamental rights.
The government has systematically weakened the system of checks and balances, putting fundamental values of the European Union at risk, Márta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, told LIBE. The free press and a strong civil sector are key in a democratic state for ensuring accountability of the government, she said.
Although the free press still exists in Hungary, freedom of the press has become a thing of the past, Gábor Polyák, the head of the Mérték Média Monitor, said at the hearing.
He accused the government of “using the media as a political communications tool” and handling criticism as “an attack”.
Also speaking at the hearing, Miklós Szánthó, the director of the Center for Fundamental Rights, called it an “optical illusion” that Hungary failed to observe EU laws, arguing that Hungary was a steady mid-fielder among EU member states from the point of view of the number of infringement procedures launched against it.