Migration poses the greatest threat to Europe’s future, which should be protected, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in Vienna on Tuesday after talks with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
“There exists a Christian culture and a way of life, which we would like to protect”, Orbán told a press conference, stressing the need to preserve Europe’s identity and Christian foundations.
The Schengen regime can also be protected “if we want to protect it”, Orbán said. He emphasised that the external borders of the Schengen area should remain closed while the internal ones should continue to be kept open.
Orbán said Kurz had been a “good partner” to Hungary on the issue of migration even back during his tenure as foreign minister, noting that Kurz had agreed with the need to seal the Western Balkan migration route. When things got tough for Hungary, Austria sent police and border patrol officers to help protect the southern border, he noted.
The prime minister said he and Kurz were in agreement that migrant quotas were an ineffective way to handle the migration crisis.
No one who entered Europe illegally can be allowed to stay, the prime minister said.
Orbán said he did not see a strong enough commitment from countries of the inner Schengen area to protect the Schengen rules. He said Europe’s migrant redistribution mechanism “is also destroying Schengen”, arguing that the EU was also trying to force it onto countries that protect their borders from illegal migrants. Orbán expressed hope that the EU would “get back on the right path” in terms of the migration issue. This is why he said the debate on a new asylum system would be important, adding that it could not be handled independently from border protection.
Kurz agreed that the EU’s migrant redistribution scheme had proven ineffective and that illegal migration must be stopped. Hungary and Austria “are heading in the same direction” when it comes to protecting the EU’s external borders. Kurz called for a new European asylum system and said that receiving countries should be the ones to decide whom they want to admit.
The chancellor also agreed on the need to preserve and strengthen the Schengen system. He noted that that the abolition of internal borders was one of the crucial founding elements of the European Union.
On another subject, Orbán said Europe was in the middle of a realignment.
One of the elements of this process is central Europe’s transformation into the EU’s engine of growth, he insisted. “Over the next ten years, it’ll be our job to do everything we can for the continued strengthening of central Europe, so that it can become a key region in the EU,” Orbán said.
Commenting on Austria’s announcement earlier this month that it will lodge an appeal with the European Court of Justice over the planned upgrade of the Paks nuclear power plant, Orbán said the project was not an Austrian-Hungarian issue but a European one to be settled by European legal forums. He said that Hungary would make every possible effort to ensure that the difference in opinions about nuclear energy does not harm bilateral relations.
Outside the Federal Chancellery Orbán was met by Greenpeace activists protesting against the Paks upgrade.
Commenting on Austria’s family support system, Orbán said he had asked Kurz to ensure that Hungarians working in Austria receive fair treatment. The European Commission is the guardian of treaties and if it learns of developments that go against the European Treaty, it is obliged to take action. Brussels will fulfil its duty and once an EU decision is made, “we will accept it”, he said.
Orbán noted the significance of motorway links between the two countries and successful economic cooperation, adding that Austria is one of the most important investors in Hungary and both sides profit from close business ties.
Asked about his meeting with Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, Orbán said Strache’s Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) played an important role in the Austrian government. He called it natural that he would meet every important political leader. As FPO holds security-related portfolios, the talks will also cover the issue of security, he added.
In response to another question, Orbán said “experience shows that whenever Liberals are not included in a government,” they say it is the end of democracy. “We will refuse any ideological trend to identify itself with democracy,” he said, adding that “real democracy is democracy without an attribute”.
featured image: MTI