Europe needs easily traversable, open internal and secure external borders, President Katalin Novák told a press conference in Vienna on Thursday, after meeting her Austrian counterpart, Alexander Van der Bellen.
Novák told the joint press conference that they had touched on the war in Ukraine and the situation of Hungarians living there, energy independence, migration and the importance of the European Union’s enlargement in the Western Balkans. At the talks, Novák and Van der Bellen agreed that the two countries should have stable relations and be strong allies.
Regarding migration, Novák said Hungary was on the same page with Austria that accepting and helping refugees was a humanitarian task. At the same time, while regulating legal economic immigration could be a sovereign national decision, firm countermeasures are needed against illegal migration, she said.
Hungary wants the southern borders strengthened to stop illegal migration, including the border between Serbia and Macedonia, she said. At the same time, it has already received some 1 million refugees from Ukraine, and “right from the beginning, Hungarians and Austrians were on the side of those in need of help”.
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“Hungary’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine war has always been unequivocal: we condemn Russian aggression and the military attack on a sovereign country, we do not recognise Russian sovereignty over the annexed regions, and support Ukraine in its fight,” she said. Hungary and Austria are both for achieving peace as soon as possible, she added.
Hungary also supports the EU integration of the Western Balkans, and enlargement is also in the EU’s interest, she said. Novák said some 115,000 Hungarians were working in Austria, contributing to Austrian economy, she said. An Austrian decision in 2019 to reduce family support for non-Austrian citizens impacted nearly 9,000 Hungarians working there, but since the regulation has been retracted, the affected families “can receive the support they are entitled to”, she said.
Van der Bellen told the press conference that Austria and Hungary had historically strong economic and cultural ties, and economic ties strengthened further recently. Austria is Hungary’s second most important trading partner and the third most important investor in the country, he said. Austrian exports to Hungary have grown by an annual 40 percent in 2022, and Hungarian exports to Austria by 18 percent, he said.
Regarding the war in Ukraine, Van der Bellen said “we in Austria might not be fully aware of the special significance of this war for Hungary, because of the Hungarian minority living in Ukraine,” which he said made the situation “especially worrisome” for Hungary. Austria sees sanctions as the only possible response to the aggression whipped up by Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said. He expressed hope that European countries will continue to stand by them and to “speak with one European voice”. Meanwhile, the Hungarian government regularly expresses that the sanctions do not work, they only help Putin and Russia to get wealthier. However, Novák did not mention those views during her visit, at least MTI did not say a word about such assertions from Hungary’s president.
Below you may check out some photos take during her official visit to Austria:
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