Poland and Hungary see eye to eye on migration, regional development

January 4, 2018

Poland and Hungary see eye to eye on migration, regional development
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (L) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán | Photo: MTI/Tibor llyés

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán held a joint press conference today at the Hungarian parliament following bilateral talks. Morawiecki became prime minister on December 11 following the resignation of Beata Szydlo. Previously he headed the ministries of finance and development, portfolios he continues to hold as prime minister.

“Two countries met today that belong to the central European region,” said Orbán, who then proceeded to observe that today Central Europe was made up of “successful countries” and contributed far more to the strength of Europe than anyone would have thought at the time of European Union accession (in 2004). Europe’s fastest-growing region, the countries of Central Europe contributed to the continent’s economic stability, he claimed.

“Neither one of us want to live from German money,” Orbán said, observing that the Visegrád 4 countries were experiencing the highest growth rates in the region.

Turning to the question of migration, Orbán said the European Union’s immigration policy had failed.

“Obviously, the peoples of Europe do not want immigration,” he asserted, adding that it was necessary to defend the borders and “rather than bring migrants here it is necessary to take assistance there.” Finally, he thanked the Poles for helping Hungary defend its borders.

Orbán then spoke about the unity and joint actions of the V4.  “We would like to make it clear that Central Europe is standing on its own legs,” he said, and the V4 countries of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic intended to express their opinion in the EU.

“We Hungarians would like for Europe to remain Europe”

”We don’t want to live in an empire. If anybody wants a strong Europe, that can only be with strong member states. Europe is weak with weak member states,” he said. “We Hungarians would like for Europe to remain Europe.”

The prime minister concluded his remarks by saying that “Polish-Hungarian friendship will remain one of the European cornerstones in the future as well.” He invited Morawiecki to say a few words about future bilateral cooperation on questions of north-south communications and gas lines.

Morawiecki opened by saying he had first met Orbán in 1989 at the funeral of former Hungarian prime minister Imre Nagy when the latter talked about the need for the Soviet army to leave Hungary.

The Polish prime minister then turned to the role of the V4 and Central Europe, saying the V4 did not question the unity of the European Union, and in fact this was something they wanted to build collectively. He said that over the course of bilateral talks with his Hungarian counterpart on issues pertaining to the energy industry and the EU’s next financial framework, Poland’s position was similar to that of the Hungarian government and this was something they would like to jointly represent.

“Viktor spoke at length about the refugee crisis, and we completely agree with this position,” Morawiecki said. This had not changed in the past two years and “we have the right to decide who to admit and who not to admit.” He stressed that Poland was planning a role in the handling of the refugee crisis by, among other things, reducing the migration pressure from the east.

Responding to a question about the EU obligatory settlement quota, Orbán commented on what he claimed was the difference between the Soviet occupation of Poland and Hungary: “There was no ‘goulash communism’ in Poland. There was oppression in Poland. Samizdat was copied here while in Poland many were happy to save their own lives. In our lifetime the real resistance in the 1980s meant Poland.”

A year of big disputes

He said 2018 would be the year of big disputes because the five-year European political cycle would come to a close, which he claimed many countries and politicians would use to force the issue of immigration on those nations that do not want it, though he did not explain why politicians up for election would seek to do so. Orbán claimed a number of European countries were already living in a “post-Christian’” and “post national” era, but that speaking on behalf of Hungary “we do not want to cross this line because in that case the Hungarians will fall apart.”

Hungary would continue to take a hard line with Brussels on the obligatory settlement quota, on the creation of “an imperial center and centralized control” and on the “confusing of migration with immigration,” (whatever he meant by that-ed.).

“Democracy has returned to Austria”

Asked how they intended to cooperate with the new Austrian government. Orbán said he did not want to expand the V4 framework because it would “threaten the effectiveness of the group of countries,” but he would meet the new Austrian head of government this month. “Austria is an example that democracy works in Europe. Democracy has returned to Austria because people who did not want immigration voted for a party that also does not want immigration.”

Morawiecki stressed that the Polish government had not changed its position on migration. “It appears the national states can decide whether they want immigrants or not,” he said, adding that it was necessary to help the immigrants in their own countries, in which he claimed Poland had played an active role for some time.

The Polish prime minister spoke about connecting the two countries’ gas networks, the construction of the Norwegian gas line, and the creation of the new railway between Belgrade and Budapest, which he claimed would be “a project of strategic importance in ten years time,” without elaborating.  Orbán said it was not possible to remain strong in the region without an economy that is nationally owned, and called on Europe to build its own defense force apart from NATO.

Responding to questions from journalists about the handling of the refugee crisis, Morawiecki reiterated his position that the problem should be solved locally, and they were prepared to assist in this.  He said more and more countries were coming around to this point of view, including Austria.