Speaking to Brussels journalists today (4 December) Zoltán Kovács, the spokesperson of the Hungarian government, made it clear that Budapest doesn’t see as timely the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU’s Schengen borderless space.
Kovács, who is a seasoned communicator and appears to enjoy his regular chats with the Brussels press, repeated some the messages from his previous Brussels appearances. He reminded that Hungary was the first to introduce “working and effective measures on the ground against the illegal migration”, meaning a border fence and arrangements with countries on the other side to take back migrants.
“We still believe that what we see is a mass migration crisis, not a refugee crisis”, he said.
The fence, legal measures and reinforced personnel have been able to bring figures of arriving migrants on a daily basis close to zero, Kovács said. Basically all who try to breach the barrier are being apprehended and taken back in transit zones on the other side of the fence, from where they can find legal means to enter the EU, he explained.
Kovács informed of the “national consultation” to investigate public views on the “Soros plan”, which according to the authorities in Budapest aims to persuade Europe to accept a million migrants per year and tear down Hungary’s anti-migrant border fences.
Kovács said this seventh national consultation indeed focused on “a fairly unusual aspect”, the Soros plan,” his political scheme how to handle illegal migration”. He said that Soros announced his plan in June 2016 in a “lecture” to the European Parliament.
“What is more important for us is that Mr. Soros’ plan is coming back in a number of measures, suggestions, declarations, political intent on behalf of European institutions. The latest such decision, which has been reinforced by parliamentary vote, is the ALDE committee’s suggestion how to renew the Dublin system”, he said.
In the European Parliament, the Commission proposal on reforming the Dublin asylum system, was assigned to the LIBE Committee, (rapporteur: Cecilia Wikström – ALDE, Sweden).
Kovács continued: “We have seen elements of this mindset of institutionalizing migration coming also from the Commission and being basically on the agenda of the Council itself”.
The Hungarian official said that the consultation has been very successful.
“We have set a historic high in terms of numbers of questionnaires sent back, over 2.3 million have been sent back so far”, he said, explaining that 99% were sent by mail, but it was also possible to send them online.
“This is a highly successful monitoring of the Hungarian people’s mind, what they think about illegal migration,” Kovács said, adding that the evaluation of the forms would take some more time, but Budapest would be able to announce the exact results before Christmas.
The Hungarian official made reference to recent interviews given by the foreign minister of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn and by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, which showed “irresolvable, philosophical difference” between those who wanted to manage and institutionalise migration and Hungary, who wants to stop illegal migration at the borders of Europe.
President Juncker tells Deutsche Welle ahead of the EU–African Union Summit: "Africa has always been a part of our… https://t.co/F56qP4wC3X
— Attila G. (@gecseaa) November 28, 2017
“Migration itself is not a contribution to the future of Europe, it’s rather carrying the kind of dangers nobody is keen to talk about”, Kovács said.
In his words, in EU circles especially the Socialists and Liberals go for a different political end.
The Hungarian official specifically focused on the European Parliament LIBE Committee (Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs) public hearing on the Situation of Fundamental Rights in Hungary.
— HunHelsinkiCommittee (@hhc_helsinki) February 20, 2017
“[The public hearing] is a delicate mixture of witch hunt and short trial. If you are familiar with the witch hunt cases of the Middle Ages you know what they were about, and if you are familiar with the communist way of short trials in the 1950s you also know what it was about”, Kovács said.
He said Hungary would participate and have its say.
“We don’t even know the issues are, we haven’t seen a proper agenda. The foreign minister Péter Szijjártó is going to be present and will answer all and every criticism. We also strongly believe this is an intrusion in the domestic affairs of Hungary and goes well beyond what the European institutions are entitled to have their say”, the government spokesperson said.
Whan I asked him what the Hungarian position was with regard to the Schengen accession of Bulgaria and Romania, he said that clearly the issue now was about preserving Schengen, and not expanding it.
Before the migration crisis, Hungary was an ardent supporter of Bulgaria and Romania’s Schengen accession. The two countries are ready to join the EU borderless space for several years now, but have been prevented from the veto of countries such as France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Kovács said that the many prolongations of internal border controls are “just an attempt to handle the situation by insufficient means”. “Schengen can be protected only by the outside, not within”, he said.
When I asked him if Greece, a Schengen member, represented a problem, he said:
“It is a problem. Because Schengen is ensuring all the four fundamental freedoms that are the essence of European cooperation. If you don’t fulfil the Schengen criteria, you are endangering the four fundamental criteria”.
He added that this was not a Hungarian, Bulgarian or Romanian issue, but a European issue.
I also asked him if he agreed with the upcoming Bulgarian Presidency who prioritises the renewed commitment to the Western Balkans, he said that Hungary “very highly” agreed. He mentioned the contribution of the countries of the Western Balkans for stopping the refugee flows.
Actually this contribution took place outside the EU framework, with Austria and Hungary in the lead.
Asked about the various infringements against Hungary, the spokesperson said it was “often worth to take your case to court”.
As he spoke about the excellent performance of the Hungarian economy, I asked him about his country’s plans to join the Eurozone.
“Our firm stance is that we are not keen for the swift introduction of the euro”, he said, adding that apart from the well-known criteria, there were other issues, such as the wages gap, which needed to be addressed.
In this field, progress was made, he said, with the expectation that Hungarians who went to work abroad would start returning.