Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán discussed with his Slovenian counterpart Marjan Šarec a wide range of issues in Budapest.
There are 96,000 migrants currently navigating the Balkan migration route on their way to western Europe. Orbán told a joint press conference. It is however impossible to tell whether they would try to make their way to Hungary or to Slovenia via Croatia. Hungary, however, has a “heartland” together with the Visegrad Group, which has an agreement that if the migration pressure on Hungary were to suddenly increase, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia would send patrol units to the Hungarian-Serbian border, he said. “We’re also ready to cooperate with Slovenia in the most specific and deepest way possible if it serves Slovenia’s interests,” he added.
Regarding the European Union’s enlargement, Orbán said that “now that the EU has botched the decision on starting accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia”, it should at least step up the talks with Serbia “to keep the prospect of [joining] the EU open for the Balkans.” He noted, however, that some member states believe that the entire enlargement process needed to be rethought.
On the topic of Hungarian-Slovenian relations, Orbán praised the competitiveness of Slovenia’s economy, saying: “There’s plenty we can pick up and learn from them.” He said that although bilateral economic cooperation was improving each year, it was expanding at a slower pace than Hungary’s cooperation with the rest of its neighbours. Hungary’s Eximbank has opened a 165 million euro credit line to promote business ties between Hungarian and Slovenian companies, he said, adding that Hungary will be a guest of honour at Slovenia’s biggest economic fair next year. The Hungarian government has recently transferred 900 million forints (EUR 2.7m) to the Rába region — the area in Hungary with the largest indigenous Slovene population — for the economic development schemes to be carried out there. In addition, the government has so far spent some 2 billion forints on development schemes to be carried out in Slovenia’s Mura region. Concerning the government’s economic development schemes, Orbán said he had proposed to Šarec the establishment of a cross-border regional development fund. He said the Hungarian government was now spending four and a half times as much on supporting the local Slovene minority community as it had been in 2010. The expansion of the M70 motorway to the Slovenian-Hungarian border will be completed in mid-December, and the planning phase of the Hungarian section of the Zalaegerszeg-Rédics-Lendava railway line is also under way.
Asked about Croatia’s aspirations to join the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone, Orbán said Hungary supported the integration aspirations of all its neighbours, adding, however that Hungary had “special interests” concerning the Hungarian-Croatian border section. In this regard, Budapest wants a written agreement with Croatia that if Hungary were to face a significant inflow of migrants from that direction, then it could reinstate not just administrative, but also physical border control measures along its border with Croatia.
Šarec said bilateral ties were especially strong in the areas of the economy and tourism, adding that Hungary and Slovenia were cooperating on a number of EU-related matters. He said his talks with Orbán had focused mainly on the deepening of economic cooperation. Hungary and Slovenia are in constant dialogue and both want to intensify bilateral relations, Šarec said, underlining the importance of having a neighbour “who understands and respects us”.
He said Hungarian and Slovene minority groups also had important roles to play in bilateral cooperation, commending the Hungarian government for devoting special attention to the local Slovene communities.
In response to a question, Šarec minister urged dialogue with Turkey. He said Slovenia was preparing for a variety of scenarios as regards Turkey and the migrants it hosts, expressing hope that Turkey and the EU would find a rational solution. Šarec urged bolstering the border between North Macedonia and Turkey in case Europe were to be flooded by a significant wave of migrants.
Concerning EU enlargement, he said the EU should strive to deepen its ties with Serbia, adding that a stable Western Balkan region was in everyone’s interest.