The Hungarian Foreign Minister insists that a wall built to keep migrants out of his country has yielded results.
“There is not one illegal immigrant in Hungary now,” Peter Szijjarto claimed.
Under Viktor Orban, Hungary is estimated to have spent more than €400 million on building border walls to stop refugees – mainly Syrians – from entering Hungary in 2015.
Mr Szijjarto was visiting Valletta this week to open a Hungarian consulate in Archbishop Street.
In an interview, he stuck to the narrative of Hungary’s right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban, often criticised by EU institutions and humanitarian organisations.
“We have always believed that it is not a fundamental right of anyone around the world to just choose which country they would like to live in,” he said.
He said Malta and Hungary are at the forefront of Europe’s ongoing migration crisis even if Malta receives by far a higher share of asylum seekers per capita.
In Malta, he held meetings with President George Vella and Foreign Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela.
We understand that the liberal media hates our position because it’s not mainstream
“Of course, migration was on the agenda as it is everywhere in Europe. Malta and Hungary may have different geographic locations, but we are similar when it comes to some opinions about how the problem should be dealt with.
“For example, we both agree that rather than taking in migrants, the international community should focus on creating necessary circumstances for everybody to be able to stay at home or to return home,” he added.
When asked what Hungary is doing to facilitate those “necessary circumstances” in war-torn countries, he said his government has spent €36 million on helping around 50,000 Christians who are persecuted in predominately Muslim countries such as Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. The Foreign Minister is urging Malta – as a predominately Christian nation – to do the same.
“Hungary has been a Christian country for more than 1,000 years and we want to help Christians who are persecuted all over the world. We are fed up with the hypocrisy of the EU and are ready to speak about the fact that Christianity is the most persecuted religion on Earth,” Mr Szijjarto said.
“When I listen to my colleagues who speak up loudly and passionately in favour of Muslim communities who are discriminated against, my question is why don’t Christian countries do to the same? Why are we so politically correct?
“Hungary is not hypocritical and – unlike others – is brave enough to express its opinion. A large number of my European colleagues tell me they agree with me when it comes to our stance on migration, but say because of pressure from NGOs and the media they are not able to express their real opinion. I think this is one of the reasons why we are respected as we have always spoken about our position very clearly, openly and honestly.
“We understand that the liberal media basically hates our position because it’s not mainstream, but we feel that if there is a growing number of non-mainstream positions, that this might become the mainstream after a while.”
He also says Brussels is too critical of the work done by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who has taken in the most Syrian refugees of any country – but has also been hugely condemned for waging a brutal war against the Kurdish people of Northern Syria.
“Hungary is totally against the EU bashing the Turkish President as a hobby. If we made a decision to put the issue of European security into the hands of the Turkish President, then we should not criticise him on a regular basis.”
Opening the new consulate in Valletta, Mr Szijjarto said it was necessary for his country to have a presence in Malta, to facilitate the growing number of Hungarians now living here.
There are around 3,000 Hungarians living in Malta.
And with six flights a week between the two countries, it is estimated around 27,000 Hungarians visit Malta every year.
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