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Stemming the waves of illegal migration requires external allies such as Egypt, an “extremely important partner”, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said after talks with his Visegrad counterparts and the foreign minister of Egypt in Budapest on Monday. According to a foreign ministry statement, Szijjártó said Europe had been under constant pressure from migration since 2015. The minister insisted that the Visegrad Group countries had cooperated and thwarted plans to introduce migrant quotas in Europe, adding that “had we not succeeded, thousands or even tens of thousands of illegal migrants would now be living in our countries”. Close cooperation is still needed, he said, adding that “one mistake is being made after another” on the international stage and “irresponsible remarks are threatening even greater migration waves.” Referring to a potential 4 million refugees leaving Afghanistan, Szijjártó said: “We now hear proposals that those migrants will have to be redistributed.” He added that Europe was now facing migration pressure from the East, too, at Poland’s borders.
Concerning Egypt, Szijjártó said the country had proven that migration by sea could be stopped by shutting maritime borders and eliminating human smuggling rings. “It would be to good purpose if the EU changed its attitude towards Egypt accordingly. It would be good to turn down the volume of statements condemning Egypt, and it would be also good if the European development funds for Egypt in fact arrived,” Szijjártó said, adding: “We will continue to rely on Egypt in the future”. V4 countries will assess whether Egypt is being hindered by European sanctions in obtaining technologies that would make its border controls more effective, Szijjártó said.
The talks, attended by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Jakub Kulhanek of the Czecz Republic, Mariusz Blaszczak of Poland, and Slovak foreign affairs state secretary Martin Klus, were held in preparation for a V4-Egypt summit on Tuesday.
Blaszczak underlined the importance of protecting the external borders of the EU in Poland. Illegal migration and terrorism pose serious threats, he said, adding that responsible governments must do everything to protect their citizens. Shoukry also underlined the importance of efforts against illegal migration. Egypt currently accommodates between 5.5-6 million immigrants and needs assistance from the international community, he said. Egypt is making great efforts to fight extremist ideologies, he added.
There are no open issues between Hungary and Egypt and the two countries “benefit a lot from good bilateral ties especially in terms of the economy”, Szijjártó said after meeting his Egyptian counterpart. He said that stability in north Africa was crucial for “security and calm in Europe”, adding that the Hungarian government would make efforts “to ensure that Egypt’s achievements in that field are recognised”. Concerning economic cooperation with Egypt, Szijjártó noted that Hungary’s transport industry is “delivering on its largest foreign order ever”, with a Hungarian-Russian consortium producing 1,300 railway carriages worth a total 370 billion forints (EUR 1bn) for the Egyptian national railway company. Hungarian companies are contributing to the renovation of cranes at the ports of Alexandria and Suez as well as to drinking water projects in the Sinai Peninsula, while Hungary has been contracted to deliver 7,000 cattle to Egypt before the end of the year, Szijjártó said. Since the beginning of the year, the turnover of bilateral trade has increased by 21%, driven by a 44% increase in Hungarian exports, the minister said.
Concerning the coronavirus pandemic, Szijjártó said that Hungary is donating 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Egypt “because Egypt is a favourite destination of Hungarian tourists”. He added that talks were under way on mutually honouring coronavirus vaccination certificates. The Hungarian and Egyptian governments are in talks on gas supplies to increase Hungary’s energy security, Szijjártó said. The new South Stream gas pipe line now offers an opportunity for Hungary to receive gas from the eastern Mediterranean and from Egypt’s LNG terminals, he added. Parties at the talks also signed several letters of understanding in the areas of trade, international development projects, education, culture, and space research.