At a press conference in Budapest, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has announced that there is every chance of Kurdistan becoming a modern, up-to-date, efficient and successful region, with which Hungary can engage in close cooperation.

The Prime Minister received President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani in Parliament. At a joint press conference following their meeting, Mr. Orbán emphasised that the stability of the region is not only important to those living there, but also to the West and Europe; this is also the reason for Hungary’s contribution to the fight against Islamic State.

The Hungarian prime minister said that barely one month ago the Hungarian National Assembly had decided to send soldiers to the region, and preparation for the operation is ongoing, with the officers having already arrived. The National Assembly has made a good decision, as Hungary must act to protect Western values, and the country “regards (this mission) as an important part of its Western identity”, Mr. Orbán said. He also added that military units comprise professional soldiers who have volunteered for this mission; through their work they are expected to gain recognition for Hungary.

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The Prime Minister explained that stability must be established in the Middle East and in North Africa in order to handle the ever increasing immigration pressure in Europe. Islamic State “poses a constant threat and a destabilizing factor”, and therefore Europe must support all peace efforts which aim to destroy terror organisations, he said, noting that the long-term stability of the region is also important.

Talking about Hungarian-Kurdish relations, the Prime Minister pointed out that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed last November and a consulate has been opened in Erbil. Hungary has always supported fully involving the Sunni and Kurdish communities in political dialogue, the Prime Minister said.

He also emphasised that the Kurds have always been highly respected and appreciated in Hungary, as his nation is one that has suffered much, and therefore it turns with empathy towards other nations with difficult histories.

The Prime Minister said that nowadays no one can tell exactly how states should be reformed in order to enable them to compete, how centralised or decentralised they need to be, or to what extent autonomy or centralised power is needed: these are all open questions today. Thus Kurdistan may turn to its advantage the lack of a historical state which would make the establishment of rapid and efficient organisation more difficult, he said.

Concerning Hungarian-Kurdish economic cooperation, Mr. Orbán said that even in the most difficult and dangerous times the Hungarian oil company MOL has not left the region, and thus it has become the flagship of cooperation between the two nations. He also said that currently there are thirty Kurdish students receiving Hungarian state scholarships to study in Hungary.

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President Barzani expressed his high appreciation for the Hungarian National Assembly’s decision to send the Hungarian contingent to Kurdistan, and added that in Kurdistan Hungarian soldiers will be safe and amongst friends.

The President emphasised that there are certain areas in which Hungary and Kurdistan may cooperate successfully. He said that MOL has shown great bravery by staying in the region, even when it was seriously threatened.

Mr. Barzani pointed out that the Kurds have become the target of attacks by Islamic State, the region’s most brutal terrorist organisation, but thanks to their resilience and the help of coalition friends “they have broken the spine of Islamic State”. Although the organisation has suffered defeats, the danger is not yet over – but hopefully the Kurds will soon be able to win the final battle, he said.

In answer to a question, the President said that the Iraqi government will have to abide by the agreement with the region on oil exports: Kurdistan must receive the amounts due in order to be able to make outstanding payments to oil firms. Another solution may be to sell oil directly, and in this way they would surely be able to pay the companies, he explained.

Prime Minister to submit the European Commission’s proposal on immigration to the National Assembly

Prime Minister Orbán said that he will submit the European Commission’s proposal on regulating immigration to the National Assembly for debate as soon as he receives the draft. He said that the proposal not only deals with the issue of illegal immigration, but also contains the EU’s strategy on all details of the immigration issue.

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The Prime Minister will present this draft to Parliament and will also suggest that the house and the public discuss which parts they agree with, and which they believe to be contrary to Hungary’s interests. “We are looking forward to an exciting, high-quality discussion”, he said.

Mr. Orbán said that it would be good if this could happen prior to the June summit of the European Council, as thus he would be able to attend the event with a clear authorisation from the Hungarian parliament.

(Prime Minister's Office/MTI)