Hungary will not place special labels on products from the West Bank and the Golan Heights, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told a breakfast meeting of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations in Jerusalem on Monday, characterizing the European Union’s decision to affix special labels on such products as “irrational.”
Szijjártó, 37, who has been in politics since 1998, and a member of the National Assembly of Hungary since 2002, said on a lightning 24-hour visit to Israel labeling these products will not contribute to a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and could cause more problems and damage.
Disarmingly candid, he said at the outset he was going to “honest and frank,” something Hungary has been noted for in Europe. “We have to tell things as they are, especially in a time of crisis, otherwise we can’t come up with a solution.”
Political correctness and hypocrisy, he declared, prevent the addressing of situations as they should be. They are, he said, undermining Europe, which “has not faced so many challenges since World War II.”
Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó (photo credit: ANDRES LACKO).
There is a war in Europe, he said, citing Ukraine which is home to 150,000 Hungarian nationals. In addition, he said, there are many frozen territorial conflicts in Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova. In this cluster of countries, the only stable one with no territorial frozen conflict is Belarus, he said.
In terms of economics, Europe is in an unsustainable situation and is lagging behind in the global race due in part to regionalization of economics and trade, said Szijjártó, who is also Hungary’s trade minister.
A couple of years back, when Europe looked at what was happening in the Middle East, he said there was an awareness of a terrorism threat that might extend to Europe, but nothing to worry about. Now, he said, “instead of the threat of terror, we have terror.”
Despite the gravity of those challenges, Szijjártó singled out mass migration as “the greatest challenge that the EU has had to face since its foundation.”
In Europe, whoever speaks about mass migration rather than refugee migration is instantly attacked and charged with being fascist, xenophobic or belonging to a dictatorship, he said, adding that because of the political correctness and hypocrisy in European politics there is no consensus and the situation cannot be properly addressed.
“This is not a refugee crisis,” he insisted. This is mass immigration.”
He argued that people going from safe countries like Hungary, Croatia and Macedonia to other safe countries are not fleeing for their lives, but rather are seeking better lives and better economic circumstances.
“This is mass migration with an unlimited supply,” he said, noting that in Syria there are 12 million people, of whom 7.6 million are Internally Displaced Persons. Iraq has 4 million IDPs and there are more in countries such as Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said, indicating that, all in all, there are 30 million to 35 million people living in war-torn areas, in poverty and under dictatorships “who could suddenly hit the road.”
So far, he said, 391,000 irregular immigrants have entered Hungarian territory and 6,000 to 10,000 are entering Greece on a daily basis.
Hungary has been under attack in Europe for building fences on its green borders with Croatia and Serbia, but Szijjártó said this does not mean Hungary absolutely refuses to accept immigrants, but rather that people who want to come to the country have to enter through proper legal channels and go through passport control.
“The ability to protect our borders is our number one priority. If you cannot protect your borders, you cannot protect your territory and you cannot protect your citizens,” he said, calling the mass migration a security issue because many young men among the migrants have been involved in armed conflict.
Hungary, he boasted, is the only country in Europe that controls the influx of immigrants, saying: “We have solved our southern border issues,” and that the 28 EU countries should be able to put together a military force to defend the southern borders of Greece from illegal immigration.
“What happened in Paris last Friday is a strong wake-up call for European politicians,” Szijjártó said. “We must make serious decisions to protect our people because we are currently defenseless. We must get back the ability to control our borders. We should not be speaking about how to manage migration, but how to help these people to stay at home.”
Given its extensive experience in the matter, he said the EU must strengthen its cooperation with Israel in fighting terrorism, and stressed the importance of all superpowers being involved in the fight against ISIS “which is an everyday threat in Europe.”
Critical of the EU on almost every issue even though he knew that Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the head of the EU delegation in Israel, was sitting with other EU ambassadors around the table at the King David Hotel, Szijjártó charged that Syria was the root cause of terrorism and said the most urgent question is not to decide who will be involved in Syria’s future leadership, but how to create peace and stability in that country. Only afterwards, he said, should there be discussion on who should be involved in its leadership.
“We need a very inclusive political dialogue,” he said, adding that the fight against ISIS should be continuous and independent of any negotiations.