Relations at High Point Between Hungary & Slovakia, Says Orbán

  • 17 Jan 2024 9:34 AM
  • Hungary Matters
Relations at High Point Between Hungary & Slovakia, Says Orbán
Hungary-Slovakia relations are at a high point as one backs the other in the European Union in economic and energy-security terms, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said after talks with Slovak counterpart Robert Fico in Budapest.

At a joint press conference, Orbán welcomed Fico’s return to office, adding that “we have long been waiting for this meeting”.

He noted that their first bilateral meeting had taken place in April 2012 with the current one being the 33rd, “perhaps a European record”.

Orbán said continuity, security and stability were the most important political values, calling long-term bilateral relations such as that of Hungary and Slovakia “highly valuable” which he said were serving the interests of both countries’ peoples.

Orbán said that the interests of Hungary and Slovakia were “at least 99% in the same direction”, and sovereignty was important for both countries.

“On Hungary’s part — and I sense identical feelings here — we are unhappy about Brussels’ initiatives for a super state; we are not at all happy about efforts to make illegal migration legitimate, and we want to protect our borders and have a say about who we allow to enter the country,” Orbán said.

He also thanked Fico for Slovakia’s police presence at the southern borders of Hungary.

Orbán: Hungary-Slovakia Economic Cooperation Thriving

In terms of economic cooperation, Orbán welcomed as “fantastic data” that Slovakia is Hungary’s 3rd largest trading partner with a steady annual volume of 15 billion euros worth of bilateral trade.

He noted that Hungary ensures the transit route for oil supplies to Slovakia while receives one-fourth of its electricity imports via that country.

The agreement concluded with the Slovak prime minister in 2014 has been fully implemented, Orbán said, noting the opening of 20 new border crossings in addition to the existing 20 which he said “have greatly contributed to a tangible improvement of the quality of life of those living in the border area”.

“Today, we also agreed on preparing a second Hungarian-Slovak cooperation package and decided to set up a committee tasked with the coordination,” said Orbán.

Fico: Slovakia Against Curbing Hungary's Rights in EU

Slovakia does not back the curbing of Hungary’s rights in the European Union, and “will never agree to a country being penalised for fighting for sovereignty and national independence,” Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said in Budapest.

Speaking after talks with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Fico told a joint press conference that developments “around Hungary and Slovakia” in the EU were reason for concern.

The EP was planning to adopt a declaration on changes to the Slovak Penal Code and on the country abolishing the special prosecutor’s office, he said.

Fico also slammed the Slovak opposition, saying “they harm the entire country just so they can harm the government.”

Slovakia is monitoring the situation around Hungary too, as there have been proposals to strip the country of its voting and other rights, Fico said. He pledged to oppose any measures “aiming to punish countries for fighting for national independence and sovereignty.”

Fico said Slovakia also rejected the EU migration pact, and agreed with Orbán’s stance on the war in Ukraine and on the role of the Visegrad Group.

Hungary’s rights can only be curbed with a consensus of all member states, “and I, President Robert Fico of Slovakia, shall never agree to such an attack, because it would be contrary to my stance on the protection of sovereignty and national interests,” he said.

Fico invited Orbán to visit Slovakia, praised Hungary’s proposals on the EU budget and support for Ukraine as “intelligent and sensible”, and said Slovakia would back those proposals.

Despite belonging to different political factions, Fico said he agreed with Orbán’s stance on rejecting the migration pact, Ukraine and the future of the Visegrad Group, as well as Europe’s future. He thanked Hungary’s help in protecting Slovak airspace.

Regarding aid for Ukraine, Fico said Slovakia would continue to provide humanitarian aid but will reject delivering weapons.

Meanwhile, Slovakia would like to allocate more EU funding to the fight against illegal migration and the secondary effects of the war in Ukraine, he said. “It is tragic that the Visegrad Group has been hobbled,” he said, and called on the Czech prime minister to convene a meeting of the heads of government of Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia “on matters concerning all four member states”.

On the future of the EU, Fico said scrapping the veto rights of member states and introducing majority decision-making in important security and political issues “would be the beginning of the end”.

On bilateral ties between Hungary and Slovakia, Fico called for opening further border crossings and said the Slovak government was planning to hold sessions outside of Parliament, including the regions inhabited by ethnic Hungarians. The ombudsman for ethnic minorities will also be an ethnic Hungarian, he added.

Orbán: Hungary Experienced in Fulfilling EU Presidency

Regarding the approaching Hungarian EU presidency, Orbán said Hungary had experience in filling that post, albeit “in less explosive times”.

“We have an experience in representing national interests without harming the mediating role of the European Council president.”

The EU affairs ministers of Slovakia and Hungary will cooperate closely in the while Hungary is preparing for the role, he said. In connection with European Council President Charles Michel leaving his post to run in the EP elections, Orbán said neither he nor his ruling Fidesz party had any ambition to fill “any European post”.

Asked about the EU summit set for Feb 1, Orbán said its agenda would focus on ways of further supporting Ukraine and the related modification of the common EU budget.

Orbán said giving Ukraine 50 billion euros for four years in advance would mean that resources the member states are entitled to would also land in Ukraine. Any financial instrument for aiding Ukraine should be set up outside the EU budget, he said.

He agreed that Ukraine needed further help, but said further assistance “should not hurt the EU budget”.

“Hungary does not want to take out a joint loan, but it is ready to provide its share from central budget resources. If Brussels accepts this proposal, Ukraine will receive help from outside the [EU] budget, but if not, I will need to stop the whole process,” Orbán said.

Regarding amendments to the EU budget, “Hungary is ready to support all points that are important for Slovakia,” he said.

Fidesz MP: Hungary EU Presidency Priorities Demography, Competitiveness

The Hungarian EU presidency’s priorities will be addressing demographic challenges and competitiveness, Judit Varga, the (Fidesz) chairwoman of parliament’s European affairs committee said.

Also, the issue of EU enlargement is important for Hungary, Varga said in a statement after participating in a meeting of the network of national parliamentary EU committee heads (Cosac) in Namur, in Belgium.

She noted that Western Balkan countries have been waiting for 20 years to become EU member states, adding that accession should be based on merit, and “the double standard” of fast-tracking some candidates should be avoided.

Hungary, Varga said, showed utter solidarity with Ukraine, and 1.5 million refugees crossed Hungary’s borders since the war’s inception. At the same time, no candidate country should be freed of observing the basic requirements of accession, she said.

Meanwhile, she said the European Parliament was “once again” fomenting tensions in connection with Hungary. Varga said the European Commission had given Hungary’s justice system a clean bill of health, and “Hungary now has the most modern justice system that meets European standards,” adding that 10.2 billion of EU funds were unfrozen.

“The left-wing majority” of the EP, she said, was now preparing “another attack” with the intention of triggering the section of Article 7 on the withdrawal of Hungary’s voting rights.

Varga said the EP was acting beyond its remit since it was only the Council or the EC that could initiate such a procedure. She said the move was “political blackmail” and “an open political attack”.

Regarding the proposal to grant Ukraine 50 billion euros in EU support, she noted that Hungary earlier criticised the plan “with rational arguments”, but had also put forward constructive proposals, such as extending the financing outside of the EU budget.

Questions arose regarding the amount and duration of the support, she added. Meanwhile, Varga said that “change in Brussels” was needed, “and sovereignist forces can act as the catalyst” for this to happen.

A right-wing victory, she added, was needed to overturn ideology-driven politics that dominated EU institutions.

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