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May 02, 2019 - Zoltán Kovács

PM Orbán on Matteo Salvini: His success in stopping illegal immigration is in our interest

“Departing for Hungary to build a new Europe,” Matteo Salvini, minister of interior and deputy prime minister of Italy, tweeted this morning.

The Italian minister, who Prime Minister Orbán called a “hero” for his determination to stop illegal immigration by sea, spent today in Hungary, meeting first with his Hungarian counterpart, Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér, then visiting the southern Hungarian border, Europe’s Schengen border, with Prime Minister Orbán, and giving a joint press conference with the prime minister.

The issue of immigration is one of the greatest challenges that Europe has ever had to confront, Prime Minister Orbán said in his interview published in La Stampa yesterday. The issue, the PM has said several times, will turn upside down the traditional divisions and alliances in European politics.

While their political parties come from different families, it’s clear that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini see eye-to-eye on some important fundamental issues: the importance of preserving Europe’s Christian heritage and culture, the question of border protection, and the problem of illegal migration.

PM Orbán spelled it out at the beginning of this afternoon’s press conference, highlighting three points of agreement with DPM Salvini. First, he said, that “we love our homeland and we believe that without strong, successful nation states there will not be a strong Europe.” Secondly, “a European policy based on Christian values must be given priority.” Finally, we agree that “we have to protect Europe’s border against the migration invasion.” He also added that we make no secret of “the fact that we respect the deputy prime minister for doing on the sea what we’re doing on the land” in stopping illegal migration and, in this respect, Matteo Salvini’s success “is in Hungary’s national interest”.

“European citizens benefit when we listen not to President Emmanuel Macron but to Italy and Hungary with regard to the subject of border protection,” the prime minister said, reiterating his proposal to take the issue of migration away from the European Commission and Parliament and give it to a new council of interior ministers of Schengen countries.

Touching upon the upcoming EP elections Matteo Salvini said, “our first aim is that we would have a decisive role in Europe, and we would govern Europe’s future,” adding that “we must diminish this subjugation to the PC world”.

Europe needs a new, political force opposed to immigration, said PM Orbán, to handle four serious problem in the EU: 1. Europe can’t protect itself; 2. Europe doesn’t respect its member states; 3. EU economic performance is weak; and 4. today's EU leadership does not listen to its citizens.

The policy that says “‘come, there is a place for everyone’ has changed the Mediterranean Sea into a mass grave,” said Salvini. “Pro-immigration policies have shown that open ports result in deaths,” he said, adding that, in contrast, “border protection policies have cut in half the number of deaths”.

These “EU policies,” he said, “put at risk the peace that has endured for decades”.

Several of the journalists had questions about Fidesz’s membership in the European People’s Party and whether a new political formation is taking shape. Prime Minister Orbán had some candid answers.

“Concerning Europe’s future, I would like nothing better than to see [those who oppose immigration] become a majority.” It all depends on the outcome of the elections, he said, and the direction the EPP chooses after election day.

“Remaining a member of the EPP depends on which direction the EPP will turn, but we are the only ones who will decide on our future,” he added. “If the EPP ties itself to the European left, that’s a cooperation where we have a hard time finding our place,” said Orbán and closed his remarks adding that “I would like to work with vibrant and ambitious people in Brussels”.