Speaker of Parliament László Kövér discussed on Monday bilateral relations and the coronavirus pandemic, among other topics, with Wolfgang Sobotka, the speaker of the Austrian parliament’s lower house. Kövér asked his Austrian counterpart to help create the conditions for Austria and Hungary to sign an agreement on the mutual recognition of each other’s Covid immunity certificates, parliament’s press office said in a statement. The two speakers were in agreement that cooperation against Covid was more important than ever before. Now that the pandemic is subsiding, both Austria and Hungary are ready to shift their focus to reopening their economies and lifting restrictions on movement, while continuing to adhere to health guidelines, Kövér said. “It is in our joint interest to make border crossing between our two countries easier, which would be particularly important in the case of Hungarians who commute to Austria,” Kövér said. Sobotka said the Austrian government, too, aimed to find a pragmatic solution in this matter.
Hungary considers Austria a key partner with whom it aims to boost its relations at a bilateral, regional and European level on the basis of honest dialogue, the statement said. Monday’s meeting in Budapest was Kövér’s seventh with Sobotka since the latter’s election as speaker. Kövér said Hungary and Austria had more commonalities than disagreements, adding that they were capable of discussing their differences with empathy and understanding. Hungary’s national assembly remains committed to intensifying and expanding parliamentary relations with Austria, he said, adding that inter-parliamentary dialogue between the two countries was set to gain new momentum with the easing of the pandemic.
In response to a question from Sobotka, Kövér said more than two-thirds of Hungarians were satisfied with the government’s pandemic response measures, noting that unlike several western European countries, Hungary had not seen mass protests by virus deniers. Sobotka said that in addition to the emergence of such movements, Austria was also seeing a rise in anti-Semitism, mainly stemming from virus-denying and racist content circulating on social media.
The two speakers were in agreement that the spread of fake news on social media was a threat to the rule of law. They said that EU member state should therefore come up with a common solution to ensure that social media companies handle content in line with the principles of mainstream media outlets.
Following the meeting, Sobotka was also greeted by the Hungarian parliament during its plenary session. He also held talks with the members of parliament’s Hungarian-Austrian friendship group, as well as with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Sobotka also met President János Áder, the statement said.
Orbán and Sobotka discussed their countries’ successful coronavirus protection efforts and illegal migration. Orbán noted at the meeting that thanks to a successful vaccination campaign, Hungary is “leading the pack” in herd immunity and the pace of easing pandemic-related restrictions. Orbán welcomed that Austria is also returning to normality, and has recently allowed tourism into the country.
Orbán and Sobotka also touched on illegal migration, which they said has been picking up recently. Although the pandemic temporarily stemmed migration to the European Union, it may gather momentum soon, warranting the strengthening of external borders, they said.