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When we protect the Hungary-Serbia border, we protect Europe

When we protect the Hungary-Serbia border, we also protect Europe, and Hungary and Serbia do this together, said President of Hungary Katalin Novák on Thursday at the Southern border barrier in Kelebia.

Speaking at a joint press conference after a visit to the border with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and former Czech Prime Minister and presidential candidate Andrej Babiš, the President of Hungary said that the border is a symbol of sovereignty and "a guarantee that we can maintain our security".

She said that for Europe to remain an island of peace in the long term, a distinction must be made between illegal immigrants and refugees. Hungary will provide all assistance to refugees from Ukraine as more than a million people have arrived since the war began.

Katalin Novák stressed that Hungary has been taking a firm stance on illegal immigration from the very beginning. Migration pressure is increasing, with 261,000 people trying to enter Hungary illegally this year, which is twice as much as last year.

She pointed out that the number of people smugglers is on the rise and those who want to cross the border illegally are becoming more aggressive. Assaults on border guards are a daily occurrence.
90% of illegal border crossers come from the direction of Serbia, which is why cooperation and joint protection of the border is important, Katalin Novák stressed. The President added that Hungary and Serbia are also taking joint action against illegal migration on the North-Macedonia-Serbia border.

Andrej Babiš pointed out that illegal migration is organised by people smugglers, who collect billions of euros from people fleeing their countries or who are talked into leaving their countries with the promise of a better life. The politician who is running for president in the Czech Republic recalled that Hungary had faced huge criticism in 2015 when it built a fence to protect its border. Since then, everyone has changed their minds, he added.

The former Prime Minister pointed out that border protection is a matter of security for Europe. Andrej Babiš welcomed Croatia's accession to Schengen, but called Austria's veto on the entry of Romania and Bulgaria incomprehensible. He said Europe needs Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and the whole Western Balkans, whether they are EU members or not. Cooperation with Turkey is also needed and Europe should help the reconstruction of Syria so that refugees can return home, the Czech politician said.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić announced that Serbia has taken two measures against illegal migration:

(1) in line with the EU's request, it has stopped issuing visas to citizens of four countries and

(2) it strengthened the protection along its border with North-Macedonia and Bulgaria.

The President of Serbia pointed out that the authorities have cracked down on armed groups of people smugglers in several municipalities, including Szabadka (Subotica), Horgos (Horgoš) and Palics (Palić).

In response to a question, Katalin Novák said that it was not in Europe's interest for Romania and Bulgaria to remain outside the Schengen area. The question is also related to migration, as external borders can be protected much more effectively if they are closer to the countries of origin.

Responding to another question, the Hungarian Head of State said that the war in Ukraine poses a serious challenge to Europe and to a large part of the world. Not only because of the direct effects of the war, but also because of the resulting inflation, economic difficulties and energy supply problems.

One of the solutions is to strengthen Europe's energy independence, but we also need leaders who are able to effectively deal with economic difficulties, the President said.

Katalin Novák agreed with the journalist's suggestion that a stronger police presence on the Hungary-Serbia border was needed. This is why Hungary is cooperating with other countries and looks forward to even more partners joining this cooperation, she said.