The leaders of EU Member States achieved a partial result at the meeting of the European Council because while they took an important step towards reaching an agreement with Turkey, they failed to decide on the closure of the Greek-Turkish border, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told journalists upon leaving the summit in the early hours of Friday morning.

The Prime Minister highlighted: EU heads of state and government approved an action plan as to how to make Turkey interested in not allowing refugees to leave the country. This does not mean that the agreement is fully completed; further negotiations may yet be necessary. However, the required authorisation has been given, the directions have been designated, and „some results may be achieved here”, Mr Orbán said. At the same time, he took the view that the other half of the meeting was unsuccessful because there is no way of knowing when this plan will materialise, and until that point in time, the Greek-Turkish border should have been closed down. The Hungarian proposal has always been to the effect that “we should jointly go south”, and a border protection scheme should be forged there which would relieve Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary as well, he reiterated.

The Prime Minister said: they failed to achieve this, “there is still not sufficient strength, determination and political will to take over the responsibility of border protection, fully or partially, from Greece which is unable to protect its own borders”. As he said, the most important item of the Hungarian proposal – which contains six items – has not been implemented regarding Greece, but there has been some progress as regards Turkey. In answer to the question as to when a decision will be adopted on the issue of the Croatian border closure, the Prime Minister said: he will return to Budapest at around noon on Friday, after which he will convene the national security cabinet which will discuss the situation in the early hours of the afternoon and will adopt the necessary decisions.

Mr Orbán also told the press that all conditions from a policing and border guarding point of view exist for closing the Croatian green border, and Hungary is able to provide the level of border protection which already exists on the Serbian-Hungarian border on this section as well. Furthermore, they have also made progress in that, before the summit, the Visegrád Group issued a communiqué in which they pledged that each V4 partner takes responsibility for and provides assistance in ensuring that Hungary should not be compelled to protect its borders on its own, he reiterated. The Prime Minister took the view that this strengthens bilateral relations with these countries, and significantly enhances cooperation in Central-Europe. Additionally, as they protect the borders of Europe, “they are also good Europeans”.

The Prime Minister stressed: “it is good news that there are four countries in the EU which are able to rush to one another’s help almost unconditionally in a very serious and difficult issue, the issue of border policing”. We must sincerely thank the Polish, the Czech and the Slovak people for their assistance, both the peoples and their governments, he remarked. Mr Orbán further mentioned that there was a moment at the meeting when “the 28 heads of state and government were suddenly electrified”: that was the time when they were discussing the permanent relocation mechanism. The European Commission has already sent its proposal relating to the permanent migrant distribution mechanism – which is a motion to be elevated to legislation – to the national legislative assemblies, i.e. the Hungarian Parliament will deal with and debate this, he said. The Prime Minister pointed out: the only question was as to how much emphasis should be laid in the closing statement on this initiative of the Commission, and the content of the document “is acceptable for Hungary”.

The Prime Minister said in the context of border protection: “there is a capability which we lost because there was no need for it”, since in the wake of the Balkans War in the nineties and when “we had a dream and a vision that there would be no borders within the European continent any more but borders would only be required on the peripheries of the EU, border protection forces were virtually eliminated, the physical borders disappeared, and with them, a great deal of professional knowledge as to how to protect a border, should the need arise”. He highlighted: “during the course of the summer, upon the closure of the Serbian border, we were required to rebuild an entirely lost state leadership capability; namely, what a State should do when it is faced with the fact that it is not required to protect its border with military force but by means of border policing. In other words, it is not required to take on an armed attack but must stop illegal migrants who seek to enter its borders unlawfully in masses”.

Mr Orbán stated that “this knowledge was missing”, but we have regained it, and “we are now able to operate this capability within a short time in relation to effectively any one of our neighbours”.

(Prime Minister's Office/MTI)