Hungary expects the European Union’s new Africa Strategy currently in the making to focus on the implementation of economic development programmes and the improvement of the security situation, rather than serve as a document that inspires ever further flows of migration, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Monday in Brussels, in a break of the meeting of the foreign ministers of EU Member States.

Talking to Hungarian journalists, Péter Szijjártó stressed that the purpose of the new Africa-EU Strategy is to improve the population retaining capacity of African countries at a rate that corresponds to the growth of the populations of the countries concerned. Should this goal not be achieved, ever further flows of migration will set out from Africa, he said. He added that there are EU Member States which see migration as a positive phenomenon and take the view that it can be an economic or demographic solution to their problems. “Hungary, however, takes the view that the Joint Africa-EU Strategy cannot serve as a means or point of reference for some Member States to impose their will on the whole of the European Union,” he said.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade pointed out that in this respect Hungary, too, is placing the emphasis on economic development and the improvement of living conditions as in just one year it increased five-fold the grants it provides for economic development programmes in Africa. While in 2017 the Hungarian government spent HUF 1.3 billion for such purposes, last year funding increased to HUF 6.9 billion, thereby helping the countries concerned with the operation of their food industry, health care, watering technical and other water management-related systems, he said. In the interest of the acquisition of competitive knowledge, at present Hungary is providing scholarships for 1,710 students from Africa, and this year it has created the possibility of studies for another 905 students, he added.

Regarding the item on the Foreign Affairs Council’s agenda related to possible further sanctions in connection with human rights issues, Mr Szijjártó said Hungary has negative experiences in the context of references made by some EU institutions to human rights. Applying double standards, they often use them as a means to disguise interference in the internal political processes of other countries, he stated. Hungary takes the view that human rights must be enforced and applied on a statutory, not on a political basis. He expects the new European Commission to take all categories into consideration when citing human rights, including the rights of national minorities and the affairs of those persecuted on account of their religion, including Christians.

In the context of the proposal related to the establishment of a new sanctions regime, he said Hungary is ready to debate the text. At the same time, he drew attention to the fact that EU sanctions affect different Member States in different ways and to different degrees. Hungary believes it represents the application of double standards that, in the case of the challenges of migration, “they are falsely attacking Central European countries hiding behind the mask of solidarity” while the issue of solidarity never emerges when it comes to the losses EU sanctions cause to some countries, he highlighted. The Minister mentioned as an example that despite the economic sanctions introduced against Russia, last year Germany increased its volume of trade with Russia by 56 per cent, France by 40 per cent and Italy by 37 per cent, while during the same period Hungary lost export opportunities worth USD 8.5 billion. In order to avoid this, it is essential to create a compensatory mechanism, or in the very least its possibility should be considered upon developing the statutory background for a new sanctions regime, Mr Szijjártó added.