Prime Minister Viktor Orbán vowed to “build an alliance with countries that support [Serbia’s] membership.” Hungary assumes the rotating EU presidency in the second half of 2024, and it will be able to aid the integration process, he said at a joint press conference with Serbian President Alexandar Vučić and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer. Until Serbia becomes an EU member, “there can be only one goal: to shift the lines of defence further south and to create joint border defence with Serbia and Austria,” he said. Hungary stands ready to provide personnel and equipment, he added.
Orbán said Hungary had to bear the “dual pressure” of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine and illegal migration from the direction of Serbia. Hungarians and Serbs, he said, stood together “in good times and bad”. The two countries have been destined to cooperate, he said, adding that Vučić was “the best Serbian partner to Hungary in its history”.
Concerning illegal migration, Orbán said 250,000 illegal entries had been prevented in 2023 and “there are not only more migrants but they are increasingly aggressive”. “People smugglers not only have guns but will use them against Hungary’s border guards,” he added. The whole of the Balkans “suffers from migration”, which must be stopped “rather than managed”, he insisted. “It must be made clear that they cannot enter our countries illegally,” he said.
Since 2015, Hungary’s border control-related spending has totalled 1.6 billion euros, of which the EU reimbursed a mere 1.2%, he said. “This clearly shows we can only rely on ourselves,” he added. Serbia is key to Europe’s security, and when it protects its own borders it also protects Hungary, Austria, and the whole of the EU, Orbán said.
Answering a question, Orbán said refugees were governed by international regulations, and guest workers could be granted residence and work permits by their host countries. “The category of the migrant, however, is not legally regulated, so it is illegal by definition.” “Migrants are persons seeking to make an illegal border crossing, and violations of the law must be met with the force of the law,” Orbán said. “Hungary is a serious country, with its own regulations; and it will enforce those regulations by force if needed.”
Meanwhile, Orbán noted that the only pipeline “transporting significant amounts of gas” to Hungary runs through Serbia, while Serbia had received its gas from Hungary for long periods in the past. “This clearly shows how the two countries can rely on each other,” Orbán said.
Before the talks, the three leaders signed a Memorandum of Understanding on fighting illegal migration.