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Jan 29, 2016

"Bulgaria Must Be Offered Accession to the Schengen Area"

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán issued a statement following his meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in Sofia on January 29, 2016. His statement focussed on the positive relationship Hungary has with Bulgaria, Bulgaria’s active role in protecting the Schengen Zone, the unfair treatment Bulgaria gets from the EU, and the migrant crisis.

 

Following are some key quotes from the prime minister’s statement:

“The essence of Europe is that each country must show respect to the others. We Hungarians have always given the Bulgarian people and their elected leaders the respect which they deserve, and in return we Hungarians have always been given the respect which is our due.”

“As regards the European situation, I am speaking with restraint when I tell you that Europe is applying double standards to Bulgaria. I think it is unfair that Bulgaria’s achievements are not recognised in Brussels. I think it is unfair that there are no plans to admit Bulgaria to the Schengen Area. I think it is unfair that for Bulgaria’s admission additional special requirements are set; this is CVM – you are familiar with these code signs. I think it is unfair that there is no  recognition of the fact that throughout the current migrant crisis Bulgaria has been the country outside the Schengen Area which has been the most effective in its actions.”

“So the Hungarian position is clear: if Europe seeks to remain true to itself, and fairness and justice are the most important European values, Bulgaria must be offered accession to the Schengen Area. It is a different matter whether a country is willing to accept an offer of membership in a dying institution – and this is indeed a question which the Bulgarians would be wise to consider.”

“What we now see to be at stake are not only our culture, finances and social services, but the security of our everyday lives. There is an increased threat of terrorism, and public security is deteriorating. One is not allowed to say such things in Europe: it is forbidden, and some countries will not even report what I am about to say, because it is thought it be so bad.”

“It is a fine thing to talk about principles, but now it is not principles that need protecting but people: flesh-and-blood people must be protected from the threat of terrorism and crime.”

The following is an English translation of the complete transcript of the statement:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank the Honourable Prime Minister for his invitation. We had a very important meeting; the current European situation underlines the importance of our meeting. Before talking about this in detail, I would like to say that we briefly reviewed the issue of bilateral relations, and I thank the Prime Minister of Bulgaria for regarding bilateral relations as such a priority matter. I would like to thank the Honourable Prime Minister for the friendship which he has shown Hungary and the Hungarian people, as well as for the cooperation which we have been able to forge in recent years. Bilateral relations are based on mutual respect. This is a scarce commodity in Europe today; politicians in Europe too easily abandon respect, the principle of mutual respect, and I think that we European countries who joined the European Union at a later stage must not conform to this lack of refinement. The essence of Europe is that each country must show respect to the others. We Hungarians have always given the Bulgarian people and their elected leaders the respect which they deserve, and in return we Hungarians have always been given the respect which is our due. Therefore the spiritual and cultural foundations of our cooperation – which I believe are paramount in international politics – constitute a very strong bond. We are also delighted to say that our economic relations are flourishing. We have positive experiences of cooperating with you. Hungarian businesses receive fair treatment in Bulgaria and we can see that they are able to take part in a fair competitive environment here. The Hungarian businesses which are active here have a highly positive assessment of Bulgaria, and their feedback indicates that Bulgaria is a stable country with no political uncertainty, the rules are clear and measurable, and there is nothing that would detrimentally affect the operations of Hungarian businesses in Bulgaria. I wish to congratulate the Prime Minister of Bulgaria on achieving this, as it is not at all an easy task. As Prime Minister I paid a visit to Bulgaria at the end of the nineteen-nineties, and I clearly remember the problems you had with goods smuggling and crime. We are experiencing first hand the measures which Bulgaria has adopted to combat smuggling and organised crime, and we have also learnt from these. In some respects you are European champions, but you may well be world record holders, because not a single budget in Europe has reclaimed as much money from combating smuggling as Bulgaria has. This is a very interesting lesson for us all. We, too, have tried our hand at similar things, but you are ahead of us. So there is a stable and predictable business environment here in Bulgaria, and Hungarian businesses are benefiting from this. I told the Honourable Prime Minister that we would like to raise the level of our cooperation, would like to see more investment from Hungary in Bulgaria, and we are also pleased to welcome anyone from Bulgaria who may be interested in Hungary. I would like to clarify that we also have reason to be optimistic about our future. We have always had a large number of Bulgarian university scholarship students in Budapest and in Hungary – it has become a tradition between the two nations. Over here, if you make contact with members of the Bulgarian government, sooner or later you will find someone who speaks Hungarian – which is quite an achievement in a language as impenetrable and difficult as Hungarian. We are pleased that now there are Bulgarian students studying in Hungary – we have a state scholarship programme funded by the Hungarian state – and I told the Honourable Prime Minister that we are more than happy to increase this provision: the Hungarian state is ready to provide scholarship grants for more young Bulgarians to attend university in Hungary. These were our discussion topics related to bilateral relations.

As regards the European situation, I am speaking with restraint when I tell you that Europe is applying double standards to Bulgaria. I think it is unfair that Bulgaria’s achievements are not recognised in Brussels. I think it is unfair that there are no plans to admit Bulgaria to the Schengen Area. I think it is unfair that for Bulgaria’s admission additional special requirements are set; this is CVM – you are familiar with these code signs. I think it is unfair that there is no recognition of the fact that throughout the current migrant crisis Bulgaria has been the country outside the Schengen Area which has been the most effective in its actions. In recent years European banks have undergone stress tests; I have to say that if there were a stress test now for all the countries on the migration route, Bulgaria would prove that it has passed that stress test with flying colours. It has passed that stress test more convincingly than European banks have passed their financial stress tests. Bulgaria has been shown to honour its undertakings, to be able to protect its borders, and to be able to control both smugglers and migrants. So the Hungarian position is clear: if Europe seeks to remain true to itself, and fairness and justice are the most important European values, Bulgaria must be offered accession to the Schengen Area. It is a different matter whether a country is willing to accept an offer of membership in a dying institution – and this is indeed a question which the Bulgarians would be wise to consider.

We have reached a turning point in the migrant situation in Europe. Up to now we have treated mass migration as essentially an economic and cultural issue. These aspects are serious enough. In recent weeks, however, mass migration has become a security issue. What we now see to be at stake are not only our culture, finances and social services, but the security of our everyday lives. There is an increased threat of terrorism, and public security is deteriorating. One is not allowed to say such things in Europe: it is forbidden, and some countries will not even report what I am about to say, because it is thought it be so bad. But the situation is that the European people are at risk – in particular, the vulnerable ones, women, and those who are unable to protect themselves. This is unacceptable. This is why I think that from now on mass migration is fundamentally a public security issue. I think that every politician is elected primarily to provide security and protection for their own citizens, but there are more and more countries in Europe which are unable to perform this fundamental duty. This is a serious problem. We must take it seriously, and if we do not want to expose the Bulgarian or the Hungarian people to crime and violence, we must protect them. It is a fine thing to talk about principles, but now it is not principles that need protecting but people: flesh-and-blood people must be protected from the threat of terrorism and crime. I do not know what culture dictates here in Bulgaria, but in Hungary we are taught in kindergarten by the age of three that girls must be protected and not hurt. And I think this is the duty of every government; at least, this is the situation in our part of the world. Therefore we must also regard the challenge of migration as a public security issue.

In Prague on 15 February there will be a summit at which the Visegrád Four will meet. We have also invited your Prime Minister to this meeting. We are eager to find out how Bulgaria perceives its situation, what proposals it has to offer, and what kind of cooperation we could forge. So we look forward to seeing Prime Minister Borissov in Prague on 15 February, where we can continue the conversation we started today within a Central European framework.

Thank you for your attention.