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The protection of national borders is a rightful interest of countries and migration must be regulated, Andrew Veprek, deputy assistant secretary at the bureau of population, refugees and migration in the US Department of State said at a migration conference in Budapest. Uncontrolled mass migration is a global phenomenon, he told the conference organised by the Mathias Corvinus Collegium. The term should be understood to include temporary, voluntary and also forced migration.

Hungarian Justice Minister László Trócsányi told the conference that only a Europe of strong nation states was capable of addressing the great challenges of the day, including migration. He expressed hope that instead of “lecturing each other”, European Union countries can engage in a sensible debate about migration and security.

Azbej Tristan, Hungarian state secretary in charge of helping persecuted Christians, told the conference 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. Hungary Helps will be developed into a V4 Helps scheme to give aid to persecuted Christians, he said.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, told the conference that Europe was synonymous with the idea of joining forces and forging compromises. “Never before have we needed Europe as much as we need it today but never before has Europe been as divided as it is today,” he said, urging member states to join forces, even if they greatly differ from each other, “because Europe cannot work without compromise.” Sarkozy said Hungary was “a thoroughly European country thanks to its values, culture and history, and also a democratic country.” Referring to ruling Fidesz’s election victory in 2010, 2014 and 2018, he said “if somebody wins the election three times in a row in an unstable world, they deserve respect.”

Former Czech president Václav Klaus said mass migration was the greatest challenge of the current era. It is important to differentiate between individual migration and mass migration which, he said, endangers social cohesion and results in cultural, social and political conflict.

Alexander Downer, Australia’s former foreign minister, slammed Europe’s migration policy as “disastrous” and “appalling”. He said the false assessment of the situation undermined political security as most voters shunned those who believe that migration cannot be handled in a globalised world and therefore should not be stopped.

Jaime Mayor Oreja, Spain’s former interior minister and a former vice-president of the EPP, said that alongside the crisis of migration was a deeper one in which the continent’s soul, values and personality had been lost among the EU’s “countless institutions”. EU member states, rather than being threatened by political extremism, were vulnerable to an “extreme lack of order”. Without renewal, Europe won’t handle migration effectively, he said. This is why it must come to understand where it has made a mistake as well as when and why it lost its Christian values, he added.

George Borjas, professor of economics and social policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, said migration should not be interpreted simply as an international movement of labour or as a commercial process devoid of cultural or civilisational ramifications.

David Coleman, a professor of demography at the University of Oxford, anticipated a new migration wave from Africa tied to a population explosion there in parallel with demographic decline in Europe. He said migration was not the right solution to an aging society as it would result in uncontrollable population growth and changes in ethnic proportions.