PM Orbán: Protecting southern borders is also in Austria’s interest

On sanctions against Russia, we need to convince Brussels as soon as possible to come up with a strategy that is good for Ukrainians, for the EU, and also for our families, Prime Minister Orbán told a press conference held jointly with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer in Vienna earlier this afternoon.

The main topics of discussion at the meeting with the Austrian chancellor were migration, the Ukrainian war, and economic and energy issues.

Prime Minister Orbán said that even though the coming years are likely to be more difficult, Hungary and Austria can mutually count on each other even during hard times.

Commenting on the war, he said it seems clear now that sending weapons and troops to Ukraine would not lead to success. “Instead, we should be striving for peace.” We have no idea how to avoid recession if the war continues, and recession brings unemployment and political instability, he warned.

Referring to Brussels’ plans on reducing energy consumption, the prime minister pointed out that each country sets the energy mix at the national level, and Brussels should not interfere in this. At the same time, European unity is also important: "We take note of the decision, which is unfavorable to us, and will try to implement it with the least possible damage to our country," he said.

On the sanctions against Russia, he noted that "we need to convince Brussels as soon as possible to come up with a strategy that is good for Ukrainians, for the EU, and for households." He added that “Hungary has been able to reach an agreement with the EU on all sanctions issues,” with the only red line being the gas embargo, which should be avoided.

PM Orbán welcomed that in the absence of an agreement with the EU on Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church was taken off the EU sanctions list, as he regards the Orthodox Church as key to a long-term settlement of the conflict.

Asked by the press whether Hungary is ready to follow the united European position, PM Orbán said that "it is not the European member states that follow European unity, but it is a common decision of the member states, and we are also part of that,” adding that “the EU is not in Brussels, but in Vienna, Budapest, Madrid, or Berlin.”

Regarding migration, the prime minister said that "our situation is different from that of Austria," because its scale and the problems it causes “are on a completely different level in Hungary." Hungary is a barrier to any kind of illegal migration coming to Austria, he said; it is therefore in Austria's interest for Hungary to protect its southern borders.

On economic relations, the prime minister said that without Austrian investment, Hungary would not be where it is today, noting that 2,000 Austrian companies operate in Hungary, and that he wishes to strengthen economic ties.

Chancellor Nehammer said the Austrian position is to become independent from Russia in the energy sector, adding that he shares the Hungarian prime minister's view that little practical progress had been made at the EU level and that a common gas procurement system between member states would be necessary. He noted that the gas embargo was not an option either because it would bring down German industry, which would drag the Austrian economy down with it as well.

He strongly supports the Hungarian prime minister in his efforts to take into account the influence of the Orthodox Church, especially in the Balkans, because "if the stability of the Balkans is important for us, we must consider the interests of the Orthodox Church."

The issues of anti-Semitism and racism were also raised, and there is full agreement between the two countries, PM Orbán said, stressing that the Hungarian government is at the forefront in the fight against anti-Semitism with a zero-tolerance policy, and that such statements are not even possible in public discourse.

In politics, a culture-based approach is possible, and the Hungarian prime minister rejected migration from this point of view. He underlined that "we will always protect our borders."

Prime Minister Orbán arrived in Vienna at the invitation of Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, who said Hungary is an important partner for Austria. The chancellor considers close cooperation with Hungary to be particularly important in the fight against illegal immigration and in the EU's commitment to the Western Balkans.