The protection of the Hungary-Serbia border also serves the protection of Europe, President Katalin Novák said after inspecting Hungary’s southern border with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and former Czech prime minister Andrej Babis on Thursday.
The border is a symbol of sovereignty “which guarantees our ability to preserve our security”, Novák told a press conference in Kelebia.
In order for Europe to remain “an island of peace” in the long run, a distinction must be made between illegal immigrants and refugees, Novák said. Hungary takes in the refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine and helps them in every way it can, she said, noting that more than a million people have been admitted since the start of the conflict.
But Hungary has been taking the firmest possible action against illegal immigration “from the very first moment”, Novák said. Migration pressure is rising, she added, noting that 261,000 migrants had attempted to enter Hungary illegally so far this year, which was twice as many as last year.
Novák said there was a growing number of human smugglers and those that want to cross the border illegally are more aggressive than ever before. Attacks against border patrols have become frequent, she added.
Some 90 percent of border violators arrive from the direction of Serbia which makes the two countries’ cooperation in protecting the borders especially important, she said. Hungary and Serbia also act together against illegal migration at the border between North Macedonia and Serbia, she added.
Babis said that illegal migration was organised by human smugglers who collect billions of euros from those that flee their countries and are encouraged to leave their home with promises of a better life.
Vucic said Serbia had introduced two measures against illegal migration. In line with an EU request, it stopped the issuance of visas for the citizens of four countries, and strengthened the protection of borders with North Macedonia and Bulgaria.
In response to a question, Novák said it was not in Europe’s interest to keep Romania and Bulgaria outside the Schengen area. “This is also connected with migration because external borders are easier to protect if they are closer to the countries of origin,” she added.
In response to another question, Novák said the war in Ukraine posed a serious challenge to Europe and a great part of the world. In addition to the direct effects of the war, challenges include inflation, economic difficulties and hitches in energy supply, she said.
One of the solutions is to strengthen Europe’s energy independence, she said, adding that leaders who are able to effectively handle economic difficulties were needed.
Novák said she agreed with a journalist’s suggestion that stronger police presence was needed along the Hungarian-Serbian border.