Hungary’s southern border “is practically under siege due to illegal migration”, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said after meeting his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Vienna on Thursday.
The Hungarian authorities have apprehended over 120,000 illegal migrants on the country’s southern border so far this year, two-and-a-half as many as last year at this point, Szijjártó told a press conference. “What’s more, the migrants are behaving aggressively and violently, having armed themselves; and they aren’t shy about using their weapons,” he added.
The minister said such people were committing a crime and not even international laws allowed them to cross borders illegally, adding that human smugglers were also breaking the law. Szijjártó criticised the EU’s “pro-migrant policies” and plans to introduce mandatory resettlement quotas. He also blamed the EU for reimbursing a “tiny fraction” of the costs of Hungary’s efforts to halt migration.
As Hungary sees illegal migration as a threat to its security, its government has set up a new border patrol force, so-called “border hunters”, who will also protect the European Union, including Austria, he said. Szijjártó added that the Hungarian government “greatly appreciates” Austria’s stance on combatting illegal immigration.
Concerning the war in Ukraine, the minister said it was clear that “the aim now has to be peace”. The government will not allow Hungarians to be made to pay the price of war, and must put national interests first when it comes to energy supply security, he added. The countries in this region depend on Russian gas, and Hungary has made clear that it refuses to even discuss the possibility of introducing a gas embargo against Russia or taking measures against Gazprom, the minister said.
Asked if Hungary was ready to share gas reserves with other EU countries, Szijjártó said no concrete plans were in place as yet, and the government gave priority to guaranteeing Hungary’s secure energy supply. The government has decided that in addition to the amounts fixed in long-term contracts with Gazprom and Shell, it will purchase 700 million cubic metres of gas
to completely fill its storage facilities.
The government is negotiating with both western and eastern partners on gas supplies, Szijjártó said. Europe is witnessing a critical period, with threats to people’s security and its energy supply, he said, adding that given the effects of war inflation and sanctions, priority should be given to restoring peace.
Szijjártó noted that Hungary has granted safe haven to more than 830,000 refugees from Ukraine. He expressed thanks to Austria for helping refugees who travel there from Hungary.
Concerning bilateral relations, Szijjártó said that Austrians form the second biggest group of foreign investors and Austria is Hungary’s third biggest trading partner. Last year two-way trade hit a record of 12 billion euros, followed by a 50 percent increase this year.
Schallenberg welcomed last year’s 20 percent increase in Austrian exports to Hungary and the 22 percent rise in imports from Hungary. More than 1,400 Austrian firms employ 70,000 people in Hungary, he added. On Wednesday, Schallenberg attended a meeting of five central European foreign ministers in Budapest. Today he underlined the need to reduce energy dependence on Russia, even if this could not be achieved overnight. He added that Russia, beyond its actions against Ukraine, was a destabilising force in international politics.