25 September 2015, Vienna

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

There were two reasons I requested meetings with Austria’s political leaders today: one was to discuss the state of Austrian-Hungarian relations, and the other was to discuss the migration situation. The two topics are not altogether unrelated.

I told my counterparts that Hungary wishes to preserve the traditionally good relations between the two countries. We see this as a precious asset, and our parents and grandparents invested a great deal of energy in creating a special system of relations between Austria and Hungary which we can say is exemplary, even by European standards. We would like to preserve this, and although we have differences with Austria on several issues, for our part we have never crossed the line in public debate which would have placed good neighbourly relations in danger. But I told my counterparts that I believe this has not been reciprocated. I believe that Austria has not responded in kind. I think that, in particularly difficult times, Austria has withdrawn its friendship from Hungary; and I came here to restore the former state of affairs, the relations based on time-honoured friendship. We believe that Hungary has been let down at a time when it needs to deal with a problem. The problem is, of course, mainly ours, because it is developing on our borders; but this is not only ours, as it is also the problem of Austria, Germany, and a fair number of other European countries. We feel that while Hungary is straining every sinew to observe the agreements that we all entered into – collectively called the Schengen Agreement – and to act in strict compliance with that agreement, we are receiving friendly fire from behind. We are protecting the border – which is also Austria’s southern Schengen border. Meanwhile, we are being subjected to criticisms and statements which are not only unjust – that would not be unprecedented in the history of Austrian-Hungarian relations – but, more importantly, which undermine otherwise flourishing Austrian-Hungarian relations. Both of us may later pay the price for this. I have suggested that we put an end to this. We should put what has happened behind us. We are prepared to forget that Austria has called us Nazis – which is an absurdity, coming from an Austrian politician. We are prepared to forget that the actions of the Hungarian authorities have been described as being reminiscent of the dark times of the late nineteen-thirties and the nineteen-forties. We are prepared to forget that they said that the Hungarian authorities are violating the human rights conventions – which is a flagrant lie. We are prepared to put all this behind us. Let us pretend that this did not happen at all. And let us instead concentrate on the problem itself, and let us attempt to help one another somehow – particularly since, in a legal sense, we are both in the same boat.

Hungary is able to protect the border separating it from a non-EU country: Serbia. Hungary is able to do that. Hungary is able to prevent migrants from crossing the green border illegally, and we are able to divert people who wish to enter the Schengen Area towards the designated border crossing stations. We are also able to conduct the necessary procedures at the border. Consequently, Hungary has no border problem with a country outside the European Union. We are in the same boat as the Austrians now because Croatia – through which illegal migrants are pouring in – is a member of the European Union. In theory, only those individuals who have submitted their asylum applications and have been registered in Croatia – and who then wish to cross the Croatian-Hungarian border after having completed this procedure – are allowed to enter Hungary from Croatia. This is exactly the same situation as that on the Austrian-Hungarian border. This has been confirmed all the more because at the latest EU summit of heads of state and government we approved a document which lays down that all twenty-eight Member States must observe the Dublin Regulation. Compulsory registration and asylum procedures are not tied to Schengen, but to the Dublin Regulation on asylum, which stipulates that the provisions apply to all signatories, and we have confirmed this. Therefore Croatia cannot claim exemption through not being a member of the Schengen zone, as it is a party to the Dublin Regulation. Consequently, Austria and Hungary are now in an absolutely identical situation. As this situation was confirmed by the statement of prime ministers issued in Brussels on Wednesday, I believed now was the time to settle relations between our two countries. This is why we chose this particular time for our visit.

This is the issue I raised with my counterparts, who showed goodwill: our talks were constructive, there was an atmosphere of goodwill, and while there were differences, everyone spoke about those differences with a desire to overcome them. So I believe that our visit has already fulfilled its objective, as Austrian-Hungarian relations are now better than they were at eight o’clock this morning. In spite of this, I had to make it clear to my negotiating counterparts that Hungary would like to receive a clear answer. There are two options, and Hungary must decide how to proceed. One option is the Croatian prime minister’s official proposal. The Prime Minister of Croatia has suggested that we should dismantle the fence which we are currently building between Croatia and Hungary. I wish to point out, by the way, that in his view the Serbian fence should also be dismantled – but that is a separate matter. According to Croatia, we should dismantle the fence, and Croats and Hungarians should together set up a corridor leading to Austria, through which migrants can reach their final destination in humane circumstances. After all, they do not want to go to Croatia or Hungary, but to Austria – and above all, to Germany. The reasoning is that we should not prevent them from doing this, but should set up a corridor so that they can move on. This Croatian proposal is contrary to all existing European legislation. But as I made clear in Bavaria, if Germany and Austria – the countries to which the refugees want to go – support this proposal, we can consider it. And we have to make it legally feasible. The Austrian chancellor has explicitly stated that he does not accept this proposal. He has said that the existing international agreements must be observed, and he will make a statement to this effect. I understood this and acknowledged it. In the light of this I asked him to fully support the efforts Hungary is making to control its borders. As with the Serbian border, we shall designate the points where the border between Croatia and Hungary can be crossed in compliance with the rules, and we shall prevent the crossing of the green border. I asked him to support us in these efforts. I did not ask him not to open fire from behind us, but actually to support us. In this respect, I did not receive a reassuring answer. The statement which the Chancellor will release will say that protecting the external borders is everyone’s individual duty. I could even interpret this as a promise that Austria will not attack Hungary for enforcing existing international conventions. And if this is indeed the case, we have taken an important step forward.

I must underline this all the more, Ladies and Gentlemen, because the Hungarian refugee statistics from last year and the year before clearly demonstrate that there is a statistical pattern to the arrival of immigrants. One half of the annual influx arrive by the beginning of October, and the other fifty per cent arrive in the last three months of the year. This means that even the most conservative estimates anticipate some 250,000 to 280,000 people arriving in October, November and December with the intent of reaching Austria – but above all, Germany. These people arrive at our southern borders. The border control system introduced on the Serbian border has lived up to our expectations. Today around one hundred people per day enter Hungary from Serbia, at the border crossing stations, in observance of our laws; this is in contrast to the earlier situation, in which up to nine thousand people a day crossed the green border illegally. At these border crossing stations we are conducting the procedures laid down in the relevant international regulations. And despite the fence, another 100–150 people a day are still attempting to enter Hungary illegally. This is a crime, and these people are arrested and made to face criminal proceedings. In other words, the defence system set up on the Serbian-Hungarian border has proved its worth. The task now at hand is to put the same system into operation on the border between Croatia and Hungary. In order to clarify this issue I have visited Bavaria and have had talks with Bavaria’s Minister-President, I have come to Austria now, and during the summit I had talks with the Prime Minister of Croatia. I now see that Austria has indicated acknowledgement – even if not wholeheartedly – of the fact that if Hungary is to abide by international conventions, it must implement substantive border controls on the Croatian-Hungarian border. This is our duty. We shall also attempt to come to some arrangement on this with Croatia, which is proposing a corridor policy instead of this. Our hopes for these talks are low.

Next week in New York there will be a meeting on asylum which was convened by the UN Secretary-General, and to which I have also been invited. I shall attend the meeting, and shall attempt to clarify this situation at the highest level – even above the European level. And if everyone has finally understood the essence of the Hungarian intention, and once everyone has prepared themselves for a situation on the Croatian-Hungarian border which is the same as that on the Serbian-Hungarian border, we shall enforce the regulations which guarantee forms of border crossing on the Croatian-Hungarian border which conform to European law. This is where we are now.

I would also like to inform you that at the summit on Wednesday the President of the European Council, Mr. Tusk, sought to warn the whole of Europe. Before the summit he had visited the crisis zones and refugee camps. He said – later also in public, so this will not be news to everyone – that tens of millions of people are preparing to come to Europe. So what we must face today is not merely a refugee issue, and not even just an immigration problem,  but a modern-day mass migration for which at present the supply appears to be inexhaustible. And we have not yet even mentioned the arrival, now emerging in Hungarian statistics, of the first migrants heading for Europe from the Sub-Saharan regions of Africa: Mali, Niger, and a little further east Eritrea and Somalia. And there are vast multitudes of people there who can be expected to set out if the European Union continues to act as it has done thus far. But President Tusk has not yet even spoken about these countries. He merely spoke about the crisis zones which are already known about: the question of Iraq, Syria and the refugee camps in Turkey. There also, as the President reported, tens of millions of people believe that Europe is waiting for them and will embrace them. This clearly demonstrates that we are doing something wrong; because the leaders of Europe never wanted tens of millions of people to move to Europe. They made no decision to that effect. Yet these people imagine that Europe is waiting for them, and will embrace them.

This is why at the EU summit I tried – unsuccessfully – to ensure that, if Greece is unable to protect its borders, it should be requested to immediately transfer this task to those Member States of the European Union which are willing to do so. Hungary would be willing. I failed to get this proposal approved at the summit, and while we have moved forward (the approved document contains proposals which point in that direction), we were unable to make the firm decision that, from a specific point in time, the European Union rather than Greece will be responsible for protecting Greece’s external borders. Meanwhile, time is pressing, because every day eight to ten thousand people will be arriving. Every day. Every wasted hour counts. These eight to ten thousand people will flood into Europe unless we stop them somewhere. It is obvious that they should be stopped in Greece, before entering the territory of the European Union, and that we should enforce EU law there. Greece is clearly unable to do this, but it is not willing to hand the job over to others; so over the next few weeks we must prepare ourselves for the fact that the flood from the south will not subside. The question is whether we are ready to stop this mass migration at the Croatian-Hungarian border in the same way as we have done at the Serbian-Hungarian border. This will be the question for the days and weeks ahead. This is what I am trying to gather support for. I have learnt lessons from the construction of the fence on the Serbian-Hungarian border. I understand that it is not enough to tell the world solely through the media what and why Hungary acts in a certain way, but before closure of the green border we must go everywhere we can to gather support. To this end, members of the Hungarian government will visit Croatia, I have been to Bavaria, I am here with you today, and I shall also pay another round of visits to the Visegrád countries in order to gather the support needed for success: support from countries where people think about the whole issue of immigration as Hungarians do.

Finally, I want to tell you that I think we are in big trouble. The  size of the challenge is enormous, its potential to worsen is unlimited, and European leaders have yet to realise this. At the latest summit, the European Commission delivered a document – to be fair let us add that it was a working document – focusing on action in the coming period. This document contains plenty of intelligent and sensible proposals, but in closing it explicitly states something which truly demonstrates the extent of the trouble we are in. It states that the objective is to convince the European people that the mass migration currently being experienced is not a problem or a threat, but is actually a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Europe to solve its demographic problems. No clearer invitation could be sent to those people who are at present considering whether or not to come to the European Union. This is a mistake, and we do not agree with it. We accept a situation in which any Member State of the European Union may seek to solve its demographic problems through immigration from Muslim and African communities; but we do not want an EU regulation which would force us, also, to solve our country’s problems through immigration, because we simply do not agree with this approach. This is contrary, I believe, to the basic ideals and foundation documents of the European Union. The fact that a sentence like the one I have just referred to can make it into the conclusions of a document on the big issues of the future amply demonstrates the fact that we are in big trouble. One half of Europe feels that the uncontrolled immigration happening today is a major threat, something which should be stopped, while the other half of Europe’s leaders think that it should not be stopped, and that what is happening is actually positive. Such a divergence of opinion makes it very hard for the leaders of Europe to take common action.

I sincerely hope that at the next summit, which will be held soon, we shall succeed in creating some sort of European policy – despite this huge divergence of opinion. Until then, however, we cannot afford to wait for the emergence of a common European policy which has not yet materialised. We must do what our own citizens expect us to do, and what our own national interests and the interests of the entire region dictate – not only the interests of Hungary, but also those of Austria. This is how I can sum up our meetings.

Thank you for being here today. If you have any questions, I am at your disposal.

(Prime Minister's Office)