The four member states of the Visegrad Group have all reaped tangible benefits from cooperation, which has a positive impact on the everyday life of their citizens, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in Bratislava on Tuesday. Szijjártó told a press conference after a meeting with Visegrad Group counterparts that cooperation between the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia was a “labour of love” for Hungarian foreign policy. Since its inception, member states “could achieve more than what they would have achieved alone,” he said. The partnership had important results in economic and security policy, he said, pointing to the fact that trade between Hungary and the other three countries hit a record 35 billion euros last year. Trade is up by 30% again this year, he added.
But the greatest achievement of the group so far was to thwart the introduction of mandatory resettlement quotas for asylum seekers in the European Union, “amid sharp debates and against a strong headwind”, he said. “Had we failed to achieve that, tens of thousands of illegal migrants would arrive and live in central Europe,” he said.
Migration continues to pose a challenge, and Hungary continues to protect the EU’s external borders, with some 255,000 thwarted attempts of illegal entry under its belt this year only, Szijjártó said. He thanked the Visegrad countries regularly sending border guards and police officers to help defend Hungary’s southern border.
Responding to a question on the Slovak foreign minister’s criticism of his meeting with Robert Fico, the former Slovak prime minister and the leader of the opposition Smer-SD party, Szijjártó said the criticism was “hard to fathom”. “I have seen many things during my over eight years as foreign minister, but being lambasted for meeting opposition leaders, not only those of the ruling parties, is not among them,” he said.