Diplomacy / Ukraine’s accession to EU is not timely 

Ukraine’s accession to EU is not timely 

In an interview given to the French weekly Le Point that was published on Friday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spoke about migration issues, next summer’s EP elections, the role of NATO and a common European defence system. In the interview, the Prime Minister stressed that Ukraine’s accession to the European Union was not timely at all.

Regarding Kiev’s accession to the EU, Mr Orbán pointed out that the accession plans had not been adequately prepared, they had failed to structure them in a way “that would ensure that accession would bring in more than it would cost.”

He said Ukraine is one of the world’s most corrupt countries, and therefore, it is not ready to engage in accession talks.

“Hungary is a neighbour of Ukraine. Whatever people in Paris, in Brussels or in the Hague might think, we know exactly what’s going on in Ukraine,” he stated, but denied allegations that Budapest would “veto” the EU plans. 

“We should say instead that we won’t consent to them,” he laid down. 

“My view is that if someone disagrees, there is no decision,” he added.

He drew attention to the fact that, in the event of Ukraine’s accession, the other EU Member States would be required to pay in more, mentioning France as an example which would, as a result, be required to pay an extra more than EUR 3.5 billion annually. He mentioned as a further example Ukraine’s agriculture which – if integrated into European agriculture – could easily destroy the agriculture of the other Member States. 

Instead, Mr Orbán proposes a strategic partnership with Ukraine, as part of which it would be possible to conclude a variety of agreements with Kiev on agriculture, customs tariffs and security. 

“I agree with the idea of elevating the level of cooperation, but not with membership,” the Prime Minister said, summarising his position. 

In the context of the Hungarian minority living in Ukraine, he pointed out that minority rights cannot constitute the subject-matter of bargaining; Ukraine must respect them, regardless of the accession plans. 

In answer to the question of whether Budapest would remain inflexible on the issue if the EU were to disburse to Hungary the EUR 10 billion blocked to date, he said technical issues such as finances must not be mixed with historical challenges. 

“The issue of Ukraine is a historical issue,” he added.

He highlighted that more than two thirds of people in Hungary are against the commencement of accession talks, including the Hungarian Parliament. 

Regarding the sanctions against Russia, he recalled that in general he never supported sanctions because “it’s hard to find a single example in European history where sanctions did work.” He said Europe had been betrayed on the issue of “badly worded and badly implemented sanctions.” 

“How would you explain that while Russia is under the effect of sanctions, the Americans have doubled their nuclear fuel purchases? While we talk about sanctions, others, the United States in particular, avoid them and implement successful deals,” he stated. 

In the context of his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister said “historically, politically and geographically, Russia is a different country” and it cannot be compared with the European Union or the European continent for which freedom is a fundamental value. In Russia, he said, the most important question is not freedom, but the question of preserving unity, of keeping an enormous territory together, and we cannot expect Russia to be like Europe. 

“The question is whether the differences between us prevent us from cooperating,” the Prime Minister asked, adding that based on this logic, it would not be possible to cooperate with two thirds of the planet.

“Russia is here, and is strong,” he pointed out. 

He recalled that as he had been born in a communist country, he had experienced the bipolar logic that there was the West on one side and there was the Soviet Union on the other, and underlined that he would not like to return to that mentality.

“This is an American disease,” he stated, explaining that the United States is a country which believes that there are certain universal values which must be seen in the same light everywhere in the world. 

“I don’t like this, we have a different approach. There is a cultural foundation, and based on this, people can decide which values and which political systems are best-suited to their needs,” he explained. 

He added that “we can’t expect westerners to behave as we do.” 

“This American, universalist approach, this is what’s causing a number of conflicts around the world,” he said. 

In answer to a question related to NATO, Mr Orbán said we need the North Atlantic military alliance as today it is much stronger than Russia which has not even been able to defeat the Ukrainians. 

“There is a risk, however, that the Americans will abandon Europe. Therefore, we Europeans must organise our own defence, and so I support the raising of defence expenditures,” he pointed out, adding that France must play an important role in the common European defence industry.

If Europe fails to learn to defend itself, it will forever remain in the shadow of America, he underlined. 

He said in Hungary, the modernisation of the army had started four years ago, and defence expenditures now reached two per cent of GDP. 

“I’m a committed supporter of common European defence. I don’t like the EU’s centralised approach, but on security issues, I do believe that we should be more centralised,” the Prime Minister stated in summary.

Regarding migration, the Prime Minister pointed out that the Hungarian people did not want to follow the path of other countries, including France. 

“There is no full guarantee that with the mixing of cultures, we will obtain something better than our own traditional society,” he said. 

“If that’s what you want to do, go ahead. But please don’t force us to follow you,” he added.

In answer to the question that if he is close to Giorgia Meloni, why he is not prepared to help Rome with the issue of migrants coming to Italy, the Prime Minister highlighted that while he tried to help “as much as circumstances allow,” the new migration pact “is quite simply a flawed path.” 

“I have some experience regarding the issues of migration. […] In Hungary, there are no migrants, and I’m proud of that. Sometimes, a few succeed in getting through, but sooner or later, we push them back,” he said. 

He said the goal of the government is to ensure that no one enters Hungary without the permission of the Hungarian authorities, adding that this is the policy that all European states should follow.

He highlighted that, pursuant to the laws, asylum-seekers “must wait for the assessment of their applications” outside Hungary, “for instance, in Serbia,” pointing out that this is the only good method for the management of immigration. 

“The ultimate solution is that no one is allowed to enter the territory of Europe without the permission of the authorities,” he stated, warning that if migrants gain access to Europe before such permission is granted, “we will never be able to send them back.” 

In answer to the question of what he would do if Ms Meloni asked Hungary for a plane in order to send migrants back to Africa, the Prime Minister said “I have suggested this to her about a hundred times.” 

In the context of the EU’s migration policy, he also said if the European Commission declared a state of emergency due to a migration crisis, pursuant to the security clause, they would also send immigrants to Hungary, or else Budapest would be required to pay.

“Well, fine, I’m prepared to pay if the EU assumes minimum 30 per cent of our costs related to border protection. Because we have spent more than two billion euros so far on the protection of the borders,” he pointed out.

Regarding European national forces, the Prime Minister said a number of countries in Europe are struggling with “a democracy deficit” because the people now see politics as an issue reserved entirely for the elites, and take the view that their opinions are no longer heard and respected. This is why they are turning towards parties outside the elites. 

He pointed out that in Europe two types of traditions had developed regarding the issue of national sovereignty: the first one is the heritage of the Roman Empire, the centralised path followed by Germany and France in EU politics. The other tradition evolved with the development of the states that came into being after the fall of the Roman Empire which are “against the imperialist approach.”

“These two dynamics are driving the EU, the centralist dynamic and the dynamic bearing national sovereignty in mind; when these are in balance, the EU functions well,” he pointed out, adding that this balance was maintained while Britain was still a member of the EU. 

With Brexit, this balance was upset, the departure of London has debilitated Central Europe, he said, adding that this is the reason for the strengthening of elements – including extremist elements at times – fighting for national sovereignty. 

Touching upon the issue of the rule of law, Mr Orbán highlighted that the treaties on the functioning of the European Union do not include a definition of the term of the rule of law. However, instead of the Member States finding a common definition, “the rule of law has become a political weapon in the hands of those who aspire to a more centralised European Union.” 

He recalled that a rule of law procedure had been instituted against Hungary when Fidesz had left the European People’s Party (EPP). 

“We are innocent, but vulnerable at the same time,” he said, warning that the rule of law should be taken more seriously than to use it as a political weapon. 

He highlighted that Hungary’s Fundamental Law respected both the separation of powers and freedom of religion. 

In the interview, Mr Orbán was also asked about whether Fidesz would consider joining the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group led by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. He said there are ongoing negotiations, and Budapest would be happy to become a member, whether before or after the summer EP elections. 

He indicated, however, that the party family Identity and Democracy (ID) which includes among its members Marine Le Pen’s party, the pro-sovereignty right-wing National Rally (RN), is also “close to Fidesz.” In this regard, he expressed regret at the fact that the ECR and ID had to date failed to engage in negotiations about cooperation. 

“If non-traditional right-wing parties are not prepared to cooperate, we will never be in a majority,” he warned. 

Regarding the EP elections, Mr Orbán said there may be a chance for a turnaround in EU politics because “the liberal elite, the ruling elite, the Brussels bureaucrats no longer represent the EU’s fundamental goals.” 

He recalled that the EU meant a promise of peace and welfare. “Today, there is no peace, and neither has our welfare improved.” Therefore, the time has come for “non-traditional right-wing parties,” parties falling outside the realm of mainstream politics to take over within the organisation “in order to restore peace and security, and to enhance welfare.” 


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