Friendship between Austria and Hungary has been restored, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a press conference after talks with his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl on Thursday.
The two countries “are connected in thousands of ways” and economic cooperation “is extremely important”, Szijjarto said. The two officials agreed that the root causes of migration must be addressed and that it was possible to protect Europe’s sea borders.
Austria is Hungary’s second most important trading partner, with bilateral turnover exceeding 10 billion euros last year. Austrian companies represent the fourth largest investor community in Hungary, employing 75,000 people, he added. Bilateral ties saw “some serious disputes” in recent years, mostly concerning migration, he said. “But this unworthy situation has been successfully resolved” following the election of a new government in Vienna. He welcomed the current government’s focus on dialogue and friendship, leaving behind the “skirmishes” that embittered bilateral relations in the past.
Szijjarto said migration was a focus of the talks. Hungary considers the quota system a “disgraceful failure”. Emphasis should be placed on border protection, he said. The security of Hungarians is the top priority, he said. “We will protect the border and maintain the right to decide who enters the country and with whom we live.” The minister called the United Nation’s migration package “outrageous”, adding that Hungary wants it rewritten and amended. Instead of a migration-friendly UN proposal, an anti-migration document is needed, Szijjarto said, adding that Hungary will formally submit its proposals presented at the conference earlier in the day.
He said EU expansion was also a topic of discussion at his meeting with Kneissl. Countries of the Western Balkans can rely on Hungary’s support in this process, Szijjarto said. Commenting on Schengen, he said the zone’s survival was among the most important conditions for maintaining Europe’s economic competitiveness.
Kneissl, minister for foreign affairs and European integration, noted that Austria will assume the EU’s rotating presidency on July 1. The presidency’s focus will be subsidiarity, she said, adding that the EU would have to consult member states on the issues of migration and refugees.
She said the Western Balkans are part of Europe both in historical and geographical senses, so Austria considers it an obligation to carry forward the issue of the bloc’s expansion.
She also said that Austria recognises the distinction between legal and illegal migration.
Kneissl noted the dispute between Austria and the European Commission concerning the expansion of Hungary’s Paks nuclear power plant and said this was not a bilateral issue.
Asked about the Visegrad Group and whether expansion of the four-nation cooperation was on the agenda, Szijjarto said important cooperation was taking place between Austria and the V4 but there were no plans to broaden the group.
Source and photo: MTI