Europe must protect its external borders so as to guarantee peace and security within the borders of the passport-free Schengen area, Interior Minister Sándor Pintér said after meeting his Slovak, Czech and Austrian counterparts in Bratislava (Pozsony) on Monday.
The ministerial meeting was held at the initiative of Slovakia in the wake of Czechia and Austria recently reinstating checks on the Slovakian border in response to a rise in the flow of illegal migrants.
The four officials discussed boosting cooperation against illegal migration.
Addressing a joint press conference after the meeting, Pintér said Hungary’s position on illegal migration hadd not changed since 2015.
“In 2015, when 391,000 people entered Hungary uninvited, we built a fence and have been protecting the European Union’s external Schengen borders ever since,” he said.
The minister said the pressure on Hungary from illegal migration this year was at its highest since 2015, with the authorities having turned away or deported some 100,000 people so far. He said the fact that some 2,000 people smugglers had been sentenced so far this year was a testament to Hungary’s successful border protection efforts.
Pintér thanked Austria and Czechia for their assistance in protecting the Schengen area‘s external borders, saying that hopefully the new agreements between the four countries would provide further help.
“I hope Brussels will also accept that we need to protect our external borders in order to ensure peace and security within the Schengen zone’s borders,” Pintér added.
Roman Mikulec, Slovakia’s interior minister, welcomed the “constructive” meeting, saying he and his counterparts were in agreement on the need to boost the protection of the external borders, to stop illegal migration outside the Schengen area, and that this required cooperation from the European Union. “Frontex should do what it was created for,” he said.
Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said the message of the meeting was that illegal migration needed to be resolved at the EU level and that the bloc needed to recognise that it had to act.
Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner said “cross-border crime” required cross-border solutions. Though the protection of the internal borders is also important, it is the strengthening of the external borders that is most important right now, he said, adding that Austria will send police officers to help boost border controls.