PM Orbán: EU migration pact “certain to fail”

The prime minister noted that he had tried to persuade the other member states over eight hours not to start accession talks with Ukraine as “that would be a mistake”.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said at his year-end press conference that the new migration pact agreed on by the European Union was “certain to fail”.

PM Orbán said that until the EU declared, as Hungary had, that anyone who wanted to enter the bloc’s territory must submit an application to do so and wait outside the EU’s borders for their request to be assessed, any package that was introduced would fail. PM Orbán said he was convinced that Hungary’s way of regulating migration could be taken as a “model” as the only one across Europe that had been proven to work, adding that “Brussels shouldn’t be attacking it”. Regarding the recent EU summit, PM Orbán noted that he had tried to persuade the other member states over eight hours not to start accession talks with Ukraine as “that would be a mistake”. Whereas Hungary did not “want the role of a Cassandra”, he said he could not say for sure what would happen, adding that Hungary had met the same kind of opposition in the EU over the issue of migration, which had then caused “great trouble” in Europe. If Hungary persisted in holding the line after many years that Ukrainian accession was “not good”, then the Hungarian parliament would still have a decision ahead of it, and its approval ultimately would be required to ratify it. He added that a more realistic option, a strategic partnership, should be offered to Ukraine.

On the subject of the public finances, PM Orbán said it was possible to provide financial support outside of the EU budget. Orbán said Hungary’s goal was not to “block things or to say no, but to say yes,” so that good decisions could be taken in Brussels. He said supporting Ukraine within the EU budget was not a good decision, as doing so may endanger other sections of the budget, such as funding earmarked for Hungary. Concerning EU aid for Ukraine, the prime minister said: “This does not depend on whether the EU releases the funds payable to Hungary.” “The EU’s formula to punish Hungarian children through the Erasmus programme, when they have a problem with the country, is far from the Hungarian spirit … we consider this petty and we will not do anything of the kind; we will not couple things of a different nature,” he said. “An agreement on Ukraine will not follow when Hungary receives money but when the proposal in itself makes sense,” Orbán said, adding the most important requirement was that aid for Ukraine “must come from outside the budget and should not be linked to other budgetary issues.” The EU budget, he added, was appropriate and “it would cause problems if we touched it … we won’t ask for anything else; just that the budget should be implemented.” Money for Hungary was included in the EU budget and those funds were “due”. “But if they start changing the budget, Hungarian interests will be present and we will negotiate accordingly.” The prime minister noted that Hungary had called for a ceasefire in Ukraine, regardless of any post-war settlement. After that, he said, time must be allowed to develop the framework for peace negotiations. “If Europe does not start negotiations, there’s a risk that Russia could come to an agreement with the United States and leave the Europeans out of it,” he said. Orbán said it was important for Hungary not to share a border with Russia. “There should always be … a state in between. That has so far been Ukraine,” he said, adding that Hungary would not consent to being drawn into the war. “We do not want to be part of an alliance with a country that is currently fighting a war on its eastern border,” he said, indicating that this position was shared by NATO. He said Ukraine’s NATO membership would mean that Hungary would have to send troops to Ukraine the very next day.

Concerning an invitation by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Orbán said they had been “swept together” at the inauguration ceremony of the Argentinian president in Buenos Aires, where Zelensky “offered talks and I accepted”. But first, topics should be clarified in preparatory talks between the two countries’ foreign ministers, he said. On the subject of Ukraine’s EU membership, EU ministers must first come to an agreement, he added. Regarding the EU summit next February, he said that two issues on the agenda could be taken separately: one was EU financial support for Ukraine and the other was a request by individual member states for independent budget changes. Concerning the proposed aid for Ukraine, Orbán said: “Twenty-six member states support giving 50 billion euros to Ukraine over four years, a sum which we do not currently have, so the community would have to take out a loan as part of the seven-year budget framework.” He said it was important to identify a “meaningful timeframe” for the aid to be forwarded, since “we have no idea what will happen in a quarter of a year”. The aid should be “tied to America’s commitment” because “commitments of an uncertain magnitude could unravel our own budget”. Alternatively, each member state could contribute “in proportion to their GDP”, he suggested. “We don’t want to take out a loan in cooperation with anyone,” Orbán said. “We don’t want to make the same mistake as with the recovery fund. The pandemic is over, yet several member states have not received funds due to them.” “It isn’t sensible to borrow money in cooperation with other countries while we’re in a political dispute with those very countries,” the prime minister said. Regarding initiatives for other amendments to the EU budget, Orbán said that if such a process started, “Hungary will do the same”. “This is ahead of us and will become clear in the next month,” he said.

Asked whether Hungarians in Transcarpathia would be better off if Ukraine became a member of the EU, Orbán said: “Yes, that can be done in a way that they will be better off”. The fact that former Ukrainian president Poroshenko was not allowed to leave his country because he was reported to be on his way to meet the Hungarian prime minister, Orbán said he was more forgiving than public opinion as he recognised that Ukraine was at war and must enforce extraordinary rules. “I have no word of criticism on this: if the Ukrainian state believes that someone’s departure from the territory of the country poses a risk to national security, they must act accordingly”. At the same time, Orbán suggested that “if a Ukrainian citizen meeting a Hungarian prime minister carries a national security risk, how does Ukraine mean to become a member of the EU?”