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The key issue for Hungary is whether a major European country pursues the Hungarian approach to the issue of migration, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told a conference on migration in Budapest. This, he added, was likely to be Italy, because it is a country of borders, with a maritime one. “Our energies are finite,” Orbán said. “We need a big country from western Europe that finally says the same as us.”

For western Europe, managing the coexistence of indigenous citizens with other peoples is of key importance, but for central Europe “there aren’t any such masses and all efforts must go towards making sure there aren’t any in future either,” he said. Hungary’s current outsized role in the debate is a function of its geography and history, he said, noting that when migrants choose to come to Europe overland, they must arrive at the southern borders of Hungary. “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.

The prime minister also said Europe should be led by institutions. It was not designed for individuals and strong political figures, he said, adding that the European political concept of maintaining strong institutions was right. European “soft power”, he said, was 85% dominated by think-tanks, NGOs, universities and the media of the left-liberal wing which acted in concert. “This is the reason why, when a western European thinks like a Hungarian and says what he thinks, the 85% shreds it to pieces by the next morning,” he said. But in central Europe “the proportion is 50-50 or even moving in a slightly more conservative direction.” “Here in central Europe, I can survive this but not in the West.”