Hungary will not place special labeling on products from the West Bank and the Golan Heights, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told a breakfast meeting of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations on Monday.The minister characterized the European Union’s decision to affix special labels on such products as “irrational,” saying that it will not contribute to a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it could cause more problems and damage. Szijjártó, 37, began his political career in 1998 and has been a member of the National Assembly of Hungary since 2002. He was in Israel on a lightning 24 hour visit.
Disarmingly candid, he said at the outset of his address that he was going to “honest and frank” something that Hungary has been noted for in Europe, as a result of which it has been under attack and has faced a barrage of criticism. “We have to tell things as they are, especially in a time of crisis, otherwise we can’t come up with a solution,” said Szijjártó.
“Political correctness prevents the addressing of situations as they should be,” he declared, emphasizing that political correctness and hypocrisy are undermining Europe which, “has not faced so many challenges since World War Two.”
In addition to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, he said, there are numerous frozen territorial conflicts in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova. In this cluster of countries, the only stable state with no territorial frozen conflict is Belarus, said Szijjártó.
Szijjártó, who is also Hungary’s Minister for Trade, said that while Israel is on the verge of an energy boom which may change its role in the world energy market, Europe is defenseless and a great deal of its demand is dependant on Russia.
A couple of years back, when Europe looked at what was happening in the Middle East, there was an awareness of a threat that might extend to Europe, but nothing to worry about. Now, he said, “instead of the threat of terror, we have terror in Europe.”
Yet notwithstanding the gravity of all the aforementioned challenges, Szijjártó singled out mass migration as “the greatest challenge that the EU has had to face since its foundation.”
In Europe, whoever speaks about mass migration rather than refugee migration is instantly attacked and charged with being fascist, xenophobic or belonging to a dictatorship, said Szijjártó.
He opined that due to political correctness and hypocrisy in European politics there is no consensus, and the situation cannot be properly addressed.
“This is not a refugee crisis,” he insisted, “this is mass immigration.” He argued that people going from safe countries like Hungary, Croatia and Macedonia to other safe countries are not fleeing for their lives, but seeking better lives and better economic circumstances.
There is a difference between how to treat true refugees and how to treat economic migrants, he said. “This is mass migration with an unlimited supply.” In Syria, he continued, there are 12 million people, of which 7.6 million are internally displaced persons (IDPs). Iraq has 4 million IDPs, and there are yet more in countries such as Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan. All in all, he said there are between 30 to 35 million people living in war-torn areas, in poverty and under dictatorships “who could suddenly hit the road.”
Inability to reach a consensus on the migrant issue causes tension and conflict among the EU’s 28 member states, he said.
So far, 391,000 irregular immigrants have entered Hungarian territory and 6,000 to 10,000 are entering Greece on a daily basis.
Hungary has been under attack in Europe for building fences on its borders with Croatia and Serbia, but this does not mean that Hungary absolutely refuses to accept immigrants. In fact, people who want to enter Hungary have to enter the country through the proper legal channels and go through passport control. “The ability to protect our borders is our number one priority,” said Szijjártó. “If you cannot protect your borders,” you cannot protect your territory and you cannot protect your citizens.”
Hungary believes that mass migration is a security issue, he said. Many young men among the migrants he noted, have been involved in armed conflict and sometimes in conflict against European combatants.
Szijjártó suggested that European leaders do not necessarily represent the people in their respective countries. “There is a distance between the political will and the will of the people,” he said.
Hungary is also opposed to obligatory immigrant quotas, currently standing at 120,000. It is the only country in Europe which controls the influx of immigrants, Szijjártó boasted. “We have solved our southern border issues,” he said commenting that 28 EU countries should be able to put together an EU (military) force to defend the southern borders of Greece from illegal immigration.
“What happened in Paris last Friday is a strong wake-up call for European politicians,” said Szijjártó. “We must make serious decisions to protect our people, because we are currently defenseless. We must get back the ability to control our borders. We should not be speaking about how to manage migration, but how to help these people to stay at home.”
He also said that the EU must strengthen its cooperation with Israel in fighting terrorism, due to Israel’s experience, knowledge and technology in fighting terrorism. Cooperation with Israel in anti-terrorist activities is very important he stressed, and it is also important for all superpowers to be involved in the fight against ISIS “which is an everyday threat in Europe.”
Critical of the EU on almost every issue, even though he knew that Lars Faaborg Andersen, the head of the EU delegation in Israel was sitting with other EU ambassadors around the table at the King David hotel, Szijjártó charged Syria with being the root cause for terrorism and argued that the most urgent question is not to decide who will be involved in Syria’s future leadership, but how to create peace and stability in Syria. Only afterwards should there be discussion on who should be involved in the Syrian leadership. “We need a very inclusive political dialogue,” he said, adding that the fight against ISIS should be continuous and independent of any negotiations.