“Orbán’s politics are directed internally as always. He tries to spread hysteria in areas where there are no real grounds for concern. Like a curtain of fog this covers everything, including the fact that there are serious problems with the hospitals, children are starving, schools have run out of chalk, and many other problems. In other words, he doesn’t govern but rather communicates. And this is a very big problem because Hungary continues to slip down the slope.” – Péter Balázs, former foreign minister
Former Hungarian foreign minister Péter Balázs appeared on ATV Start this morning to discuss the outcome of Tuesday’s EU summit meeting with host Egon Ronai.
Balázs said huge progress was made.
This is good in that we are trying to address the problem on the level in which it occurs. The fact that waves of people are leaving Syria or Afganistan for Germany cannot be solved on a lower or smaller level. The Turks are simply using the situation that is given them. It is a geopolitical characteristic that they are originating from there or traveling through there. They watched this powerlessly for a while. They closed their eyes to the fact that people were being transported by rubber boats in a dangerous and illegal manner to the nearby Greek islands. This is not acceptable from a moral or asylum point of view, and it had very serious consequences as it was there that the horde comes to Europe without being controlled. Now a big turning point has taken place. The Turks are willing to stop this development at the price of certain conditions. Naturally this has a price. While it looks as though Europe will collapse with one million refugees, most of them are concentrated in Germany. There are at least 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. The Turks are taking care of them, albeit not to the highest standards. Still, it saved their lives. They were fleeing bombs.
Balázs said the fact the Turks are willing to discuss the matter is a positive development, and “when the stakes are raised, that is the point at which negotiations turn serious.”
What happened? In reality, nothing happened at yesterday’s summit meeting other than the stakes were raised a little. Instead of EUR 3 billion Turkey asked for EUR 6 billion. Anyway, the cost of caring for refugees is much higher than that. It also requested a visa waiver for Turks wishing to travel to Europe. Hopefully Europe realizes by now that there won’t be any problem with Turkish citizens possessing legal passports. Turkey asked that the negotiations over EU membership that have been going on for ten years be accelerated.
In response to Ronai’s question as to whether Turkey sensed that it was in a position to dictate to Europe, Balázs said he did not think the Turks were trying to dictate to anyone, but rather sensed that “their room for maneuver has widened.” The former minister pointed out that following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey’s significance in the Black Sea region grew, as well as in the Caucasus and central Asia where Turkish culture and language play an important role. In the wake of the Yugoslav civil war, this influence extended to southern Europe where significant numbers of Muslims were living in Bosnia, Albania and Macedonia. He said that of all the countries in the Middle-East, Turkey is the largest and most stable, while possessing the largest economy in the region.
Calling Turkey’s foreign policy “wise and forward-looking”, Balázs said the possibility of Turkish membership in the EU presented a great opportunity. Turkey had asked to join the EU back in 1987. It was not a matter of indifference to Europe which side Turkey was on when it came to developments in Russia and Syria, especially given sectarian divisions within the Islamic world.
He said Europe needs to practice values diplomacy with Turkey and insist on respect for the Kurd minority, democracy, equality for women and press freedom. However, he pointed out that there are EU member states that do not live up to such expectations, and Hungary and Poland have much in common with Turkey, including exerting influence over the press through ownership, the stacking of the Constitutional Court with governing party appointees and the appointment of a governing party politician as prosecutor.
Balázs said that, contrary to what was widely reported in the Hungarian press yesterday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán did not veto anything at yesterday’s summit, but in fact agreed to everything except for receiving refugees. A number of EU member states had voiced objections and concerns, and the EU was determined to find a solution despite the refusal of Slovakia and Hungary to receive refugees.
The former foreign minister said Hungary was the first country to build a fence, thus dumping its problem onto other countries, and efforts by the Austrians to stem the tide of illegal migration resulted in “a domino effect” with successive neighboring countries fortifying their southern borders.
Balázs agreed that Turkey is the last place to stop illegal migration into Europe, and an agreement to this effect would herald the start of a new era.
When asked whether there was any role for the European Union to play in imposing order in the Middle East, Balázs said the EU had neither means nor authorization to do so, and this was something for NATO. The solution had to be found “on the border between diplomacy and force,” especially “given the large number of actors on the chess table.” The threat and even the occasional use of force was necessary “as the Islamic State does not understand any other language.”
He concluded the interview with the following observation:
“Orbán’s politics are directed internally as always. He tries to spread hysteria in areas where there are no real grounds for concern. Like a curtain of fog this covers everything, including the fact that there are serious problems with the hospitals, children are starving, schools have run out of chalk, and many other problems. In other words, he doesn’t govern but rather communicates. And this is a very big problem because Hungary continues to slip down the slope.”