Speaking to Hungarian journalists in Brussels on Wednesday, László Botka, the prime minister candidate of the opposition Socialist Party, expressed concern for the workings of the European Union.
“I’m following the workings of the European Union with concerned criticism, because its policies have led a significant number of voters to lose their trust in democratic and EU institutions,” Botka said. “And this has paved the way for the rise of populism.”
Botka said he had arrived in Brussels with “a deep commitment to Europe”, with which he said he wanted to convey Hungary’s interest in the strengthening of the EU.
He underlined the need for an EU that is quicker and more effective in responding to new crisis situations, arguing that “radical nationalist and populist forces interested in the dismantling of democracy” would “always take advantage” of delayed responses to challenges.
On the subject of Hungary’s fence on its border with Serbia, Botka said he “cannot imagine” that a razor-wire fence would stay standing in the middle of Europe “until the end of the world”. He added that this did not mean that the fence needed to be dismantled immediately.
“I’m neither one to build nor dismantle fences,” the prime ministerial candidate said, adding, at the same time, that he preferred that it should be removed as soon as possible. But in order for this to be made possible, the EU’s mechanisms and border protection measures must be effective and the situation in the crisis-hit areas must improve so that millions will no longer have to leave their homes, Botka said.
Commenting on recent press reports, Botka said he had never met US financier George Soros, nor would he meet him over the course of his Brussels visit.
Regarding his talks in Brussels on Wednesday, Botka said he had met Marita Ulvskog, vice-chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, for talks on the EU’s pillar for social rights.
On Thursday, Botka is scheduled to meet European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans, President of the Party of European Socialists (PES) Sergei Stanishev, Gianni Pittella, head of the European Socialists and Democrats, Tibor Navracsics, commissioner for education, youth and sport and Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.