In an international press conference held at the Hungarian Embassy in Vienna, the Prime Minister said that he saw it as a success that the participants had agreed that the Western Balkan migration route must be kept closed.
The fact that they had received no reply on when Greece will be able to protect its southern border can, however, be seen as a failure, Mr. Orbán said.
Therefore, he said, one must ask exactly where Europe’s southern border is: the border that one can protect. According to the Hungarian prime minister, some people reply by saying that there is no need for protection, because the agreement between the EU and Turkey will not allow a repetition of last year’s events.
“In contrast to this, others – including Hungary – believe that we need an emergency plan, because we cannot trust on this agreement alone, not least because recently there was a coup attempt in Turkey”, Mr. Orbán explained. “When migrants set off [for Europe] it will be too late for rushed emergency measures”, he added.
The Prime Minister told the press that the participants did not come to an agreement on his proposal, so further discussions will be required.
In reply to a question, the Prime Minister said that in the Balkans the first possibility for a line of defence is at the Macedonian-Greek border, the second is at the Serbian-Macedonian border and the third is at the Hungarian-Serbian border. “In Austria there is an idea that the line of defence should be drawn between Austria and Hungary, and this fourth possibility would be very painful for us. I tell our Austrian friends that it isn’t worth building a fence between Austria and Hungary, but we should rather go down to the Serbian-Hungarian border together […] and protect Hungary’s southern border”, he explained.
In relation to this, Mr. Orbán told the press that he had also held bilateral talks with the Prime Minister of Macedonia, during which he made it clear that Hungary is prepared to supply equipment, manpower and funding to enable the line of defence to be established further south than the Hungarian-Serbian border.
“Hungary is calling on the European Union to increase funding for handling the migration crisis and to distribute it more fairly among the countries affected”, Mr. Orbán added.
In addition to the current level of funding, the Prime Minister also objected to what he sees as its uneven distribution, because “the money always goes to Italy and Greece”, while Bulgaria, Macedonia and Serbia receive “shamefully small amounts of money”. He called on the EU to provide sufficient funding to these latter three countries. In relation to Bulgaria he pointed out that, of the financial assistance promised to Sofia at the EU Summit in Bratislava last week, “nothing has arrived so far”.
He stressed several times that Hungary has so far spent some 500 million euros on border protection, money which continuously appears as unplanned extra-budgetary expenditure; the country has not asked for a single euro from the EU on this occasion either.
Replying to a question on the stance of German chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr. Orbán said that the German standpoint has not changed: the Germans still believe that “the quota is a rational idea”. This, he added, means that Hungary’s standpoint has not changed either: “The border must be protected and the existing fence must be reinforced”. He stated that “Within a few weeks Hungary will be capable of physically stopping migrants – even if hundreds of thousands of them arrive at the border”.
With regard to quotas for the compulsory relocation of migrants, the Prime Minister said that “All of Hungary has been duped, as part a complicated European legislative system”.
“My fellow prime ministers have duped, deceived and double-crossed us”, he said. Following fierce debates, the European Council had twice decided that the quota system must be voluntary; but despite this, the European Commission later launched a legislative process which was totally contrary to this ruling. This subsequently passed through the European Parliament and was submitted to a ministerial council. On this occasion a qualified majority was enough for adoption of the proposal, meaning Hungary could not prevent it alone.
“They have already deceived us once; if we allow them to, they will deceive us again”, Mr. Orbán said, adding that Hungarians must vote on 2 October, and use the referendum to show that in the European Union one cannot deceive a country just because it is not one of the large ones.
In reply to a question, Mr. Orbán said that the quota is an invitation to migrants, and instead Europe should declare that it will not accept any more illegal immigrants. “We have also come to a decision on this, and Hungary sees the quota through this prism”, he said. He explained that Hungary’s standpoint is that the European Union should establish hot-spots outside its territory, where migrants can submit requests for asylum and where those requests must be assessed; only after this should they be allowed to enter Europe. If this is realised then there will be no need for a quota, but Hungary believes that no one must be allowed in until then.
Replying to a question on whether a successful quota referendum would result in an amendment of the Hungarian Constitution, Mr. Orbán said that following the referendum he will hold meetings on the legal consequences “at an appropriate level”. He added that “We need only say ‘amen’ to this issue once, and then it becomes fact. And, when the people have stated their opinion, our task as politicians is to codify this in a legal form, from which it cannot be removed.
In reply to another question, the Prime Minister said that the meaning of solidarity is that everyone contributes to the common goal in whatever way they can. “Hungary cannot contribute with acceptance of a quota, so […] it is contributing to it with border protection”, thus also protecting Austria and Germany, he declared.
Asked what migrants trapped between Hungary and Greece can expect in the period ahead, he said that “The winter must be withstood using traditional humanitarian measures” .
Mr. Orbán also spoke about the fact that the European Union must also sign an agreement with Egypt, similar to the one it has signed with Turkey. He justified this by pointing out that there are 5.5 million migrants waiting in Egypt, so if the EU does not conclude an agreement with that country “we could be caught by surprise from there”.
The Prime Minister also said that he understands that Germany and Austria are in trouble after more than one million people arrived in their territory illegally. “But I do not think it is a good idea to try to solve the problem by distributing it among everyone else”, he said, pointing out that we should instead be making efforts to “remove” these people from the territory of the EU. “This, however, first requires that we designate the area where they can wait for the legal procedures related to them to be completed”, continued Mr. Orbán, mentioning the coast of Libya as a possible location.
Therefore he called for the stabilisation and “consolidation” of Libya, because without this, he said, it will be impossible to establish the “gigantic refugee city” in the North African country where illegal immigrants who have come to Europe must be taken to.
“Libya and Egypt will be key countries for Europe in the years ahead of us”, Mr. Orbán declared.
The Prime Minister was asked several questions about Libya, and he replied that, although Hungary does not have the weight to allow him to think “in such dimensions”, he is open to the possibility of bringing part of the Libyan coast under control – even if a Libyan government has not been formed – in order to accommodate migrants who would otherwise set out for Europe.
If they do not agree to this, he continued, then we must scrap the arms embargo and we need a Libyan government which makes a stretch of the coastline available for the establishment of a refugee camp and allows it to be guarded by European military personnel.
In summary he said that “These are solutions which are much fairer and simpler – and more in keeping with European law – than the quota”.
On the subject of planned visa-free travel to the EU for Turkish citizens, Mr. Orbán said that as yet we have no solution on how such an agreement could be upheld, and although the majority in Vienna were optimistic “there are always squawkers – and in this case that happened to be me”.
Replying to a question on the debate concerning European “no-go” zones, the Prime Minister replied that “You should go on the internet and read the advice of travel companies on where people shouldn’t go”, adding that he realises this is an uncomfortable issue for certain countries.
At the press conference, the Prime Minister also highlighted the fact that, since the visit to Budapest of Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, the two countries have succeeded in opening a new chapter in Hungarian-Austrian relations: Austria is indeed striving for cooperation and the restoration of its traditional friendship with Hungary, and “this intention is far from unrequited”. He added that “We have always maintained that the proper way of the world is […] for brothers-in-law to be on good terms”.
Mr. Orbán said that the most important current debate in European political life is the antagonism between two major schools of thought which have different ideas about the modern world. According to leaders representing one school of thought, he said, “mass migration on a scale of millions of people has begun and it cannot be stopped – and in fact this is the path of future development”. He added that such people believe that if the world is a global village and people can move from one end of the village to the other, why should they be stopped? “We, however, believe that this is not what the future holds; we believe that, as was written, everyone belongs ‘under their own fig tree’”, the Prime Minister pointed out, stressing that he and other proponents of this school of thought believe that the Earth will continue to be divided into countries and nations, and that “everyone is responsible for the piece of Earth where they were born”, and that “people cannot just jump in and out between one country and another”, believing it to be a human right.
The Prime Minister also said that “in the technological era of the twenty-first century, an unlimited number of people can be stopped”, but “this must be performed with suitable care, empathy and clarity”, emphasising that “nobody wants a war or casualties”. According to Mr. Orbán, there are similar examples of border protection in the United States, Spain and Israel.
In reply to further questions, the Prime Minister declared that Hungary did not join the European Union simply in order to leave it, and, despite many disputes, in Hungary there is still the highest level of popular support for the EU. “After forty years of Soviet occupation it is easy to believe in Europe”, he said.
In closing, Prime Minister Orbán stated that the European Union will not be reformed by its institutions, but by its constituent Member States, and the content of these changes will be decided in national elections.