Updated: Hungary Expelling People Smugglers 'Not Directed Against Any Country', Says FM

  • 24 May 2023 7:18 AM
  • Hungary Matters
Updated: Hungary Expelling People Smugglers 'Not Directed Against Any Country', Says FM
Hungary’s expelling imprisoned people smugglers is “not directed against any of its neighbours”, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said in Brussels.

Szijjártó said that Austria’s stepping up border controls was “no news”, adding that “Austria has been making entry increasingly difficult for months or years”.

Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, Szijjártó said he had talked to Alexander Schallenberg, his Austrian counterpart, who had indicated that Hungary’s expelling people smugglers was problematic for his country.

Szijjártó said the Hungarian government had made a “sovereign Hungarian decision not directed against any neighbouring country” in particular.

He said people smugglers “had better not even consider coming to Hungary” and pledged a continued stringent approach to border violators and to “people smugglers encouraging, helping or transporting them”.

Concerning Austria, he said it was increasingly difficult for Hungarians and other nationals to enter Austria, whereas “Austrians can enter Hungary freely and without waiting [at the border], Hungarians have to wait, sometimes wait long, before they can enter Austria; their threatening to introduce border controls is no novelty”.

Szijjártó was asked about a proposal to replace the requirement of a unanimous decision by a supermajority in European foreign policy making, and he said “the abolition of a unanimous vote would obviously lead to the big countries passing the decisions while the small countries’ position would not count … this would give a chance to decisions against Hungary’s national interests”.

He added that the EU could “only be strong if its member states are strong” as against endeavours seeking to build a European superstate through weakening the position of members”.

He insisted it was “not by accident” that the criteria of unanimous consent was included in the EU treaties. “If one seeks to change that, they will question the ideal of the European Union, casting doubt on the will of the founders,” he said.

Referring to press reports suggesting that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had alluded to a possible sabotage against the Druzhba oil pipeline, Szijjártó said in Brussels “they are trying to pretend not be aware as they usually do”, noting that the leaked US documents had not made the front page in the “liberal, fantastically objective and free European press”.

Rétvári: Decision to Expel People Smugglers Consequence of EU Penalties Over Crowded Prisons

The Hungarian government “had to” make a decision to expel convicted people smugglers from the country because “Brussels refuses to contribute to border control costs but fines Hungary if its prisons are overcrowded”, a state secretary of the interior ministry told MTI.

Bence Rétvári said the EU owed Hungary over 1.5 billion euros in return for Hungary protecting the bloc’s external borders. He insisted that the EU had only refunded one percent of that “unbelievably large total”.

“We stop illegal migrants at our southern border, and we apprehend and then keep in prison the people smugglers,” he added. Brussels does not contribute to the expenditure of Hungarian prisons “but they expect us to keep foreign people smugglers at the expense of Hungarian taxpayers,” he said.

Some 2,000 people smugglers have been convicted in Hungary so far, contributing to prison overcrowding, Rétvári said, and noted that Hungary had faced European procedures because of “inhumane prison conditions”.

He also added that the cost of keeping one convict in prison amounted to an annual 5 million forints (EUR 13,300).

The decision to expel 808 convicts, mostly nationals of neighbouring countries, was aimed at “saving Hungarian taxpayers from having to pay the cost of keeping them in Hungarian prisons”, he said.

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