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Budapest Summit on Migration

| April 3, 2019

Migration has become a decisive issue in European public life today, drawing new dividing lines in politics and raising essential questions about Europe’s future. Those were some of the recurring themes at the Budapest Summit on Migration, hosted by the Mathias Corvinus Collegium.

Addressing the summit, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called for swift action to be taken on migration and border protection and also called for European unity. “We need to act now,” he said.

The prime minister cited UN data indicating that the population of Africa will rise by half a billion people in 13 years and the gap between the quality of life in Africa and Europe will widen. “Migration pressure from Africa will surely grow,” he said and added that the approach to migration by the eastern and western parts of Europe must be reconciled now because later this would become impossible to achieve.

The European Commission should be stripped of its powers over migration policymaking, the prime minister said, and border protection and a council of Schengen area interior ministers should be established to address the issue. “If, at least, we achieve this after the European elections, it will have been worth holding them,” he said.

Referring to Hungary’s current outsized role in the migration debate, PM Orbán said “neither Hungary nor its political leaders, including me, want to play a leading role in Europe,” he said, adding, however, that ordinary Hungarians never again wanted to experience hundreds of thousands of military-age men traversing the country. “This is why a fence was built and why the government has stood up to mainstream Europe,” he said. He also emphasized that the key issue for Hungary is whether there will be a major European country that says what Hungarians think. This was likely to be Italy, precisely because it is a country with maritime borders. “Our energies are finite,” Orbán said. “We need a big country from Western-Europe that finally says the same as us.”

Only a Europe of strong nation states would be capable of addressing the great challenges of the day, including migration, said Hungarian Justice Minister Laszlo Trocsányi in his address to the conference. He expressed his hope that instead of “lecturing each other”, European Union countries would engage in a sensible debate about migration and security. International crises, migration and terrorism have given special significance to border protection, he pointed out, adding that people living in countries with only internal EU borders see the issue differently from those with external borders, thus the most important task is to address the causes of migration.

On that topic, Azbej Tristan, Hungarian state secretary in charge of helping persecuted Christians said that the next European Commission should spend at least as much on helping persecuted Christians and people in their own countries as managing and supporting migration today and pointed to the Hungary Helps program as an example that will be developed into a V4 Helps scheme to give aid to persecuted Christians.