Hungarian FM: EPP should turn right and stop being shaped by socialists

Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister Péter Szijjártó. [Damjan Tadic / CROPIX]

The EU socialists have shaped the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) more than the other way around and this should stop, Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister Péter Szijjártó told EURACTIV Croatia in an interview.

“It no secret that we would rather see the EPP opening more to the right than to the left, but everything will be decided soon. The EPP has to start representing Christian democracy again, and the key issue for us, the one that will eventually decide our future, might be migration policy,” he said.

Péter Szijjártó spoke to EURACTIV Croatia’s Tea Trubić during an official visit to Croatia last week.  

Unfortunately, the main purpose of your visit was a tragedy that occurred on a Croatian highway in which a Hungarian family was severely injured. However, you were the first foreign minister that met your new Croatian colleague Gordan Grlić Radman. What do you expect from future cooperation?

Having been the minister of foreign affairs for the last five years, I learned that personal relationship is sometimes much more important than the official one; the personal relationship can effectively improve the official one. Based on the relationship that we have built during his term as a Croatian ambassador in Budapest, I believe that we will manage to successfully work out difficulties.

Is Hungary ready to invest in Croatian LNG port?

LNG Croatia is a project that I firmly believe in because I see it as an enormous opportunity for the entire region. Our countries face similar challenges, especially with regards to gas supply security. The key solution is to diversify our sources, and that project might be the answer to that. Hungary has already made an official proposal to buy 25% of LNG’s shares, which would make that project a regional one.

In addition, we would like to integrate the gas markets of the two countries, because currently, the price is not competitive enough for the Hungarian companies to have a fair shot. By eliminating the border crossing tariffs, we would be given competitive access to your LNG port, while Croatia would in return get the Hungarian storage system; the biggest one in the region. Your minister has accepted our proposal, and the established working group already had its first meeting last week.

Croatia is one of the 14 member states that signed the memorandum for migration quotas. Hungary was not. What’s your comment on that?

This whole EU migration policy is very dangerous. We have had a massive influx of illegal migrants in 2015, and since then there have been 33 terrorist attacks conducted on the EU territory. The attacks committed by people with a migrant background were responsible for 330 victims that have been killed since then.

Parallel societies are constantly being created in western societies, which is proof that the policy of integration has not resulted in success. The crisis in the Mediterranean keeps emerging, and even after five years, we are not getting any closer to finding a solution. There are 35 million people in our immediate neighbourhood ready to come to Europe very soon.

The EU should primarily be focused on securing its borders. Sovereign nations should reserve a right to unilaterally decide who can enter the territory. We have decided that we would like to preserve Hungary the way it is. There might be other countries in Europe that are prepared to create mixed societies, but we are not. For us, the migration is not the answer to demographic challenges.

Is the Spitzenkandidaten system already dead?

The Spitzenkandidaten system was not written in any European treaty, and as such, it was an artificial creation from the very beginning. You can be certain that nobody voted for Fidesz in Hungary just because Manfred Weber was the lead candidate of the European People’s Party (EPP). As far as I hear from other colleagues, it was very similar in the other member states.

Some of our fellow politicians were not aware of the Spitzenkandidaten system. However, that debate has a much deeper meaning, because there are two basic approaches when it comes to the structure and the future of the EU. One approach claims that the EU should be a supranational institution; the United States of Europe, with strong Brussels and weak member states. The other states believe that the biggest power should be given to sovereign nations, thus, they perceive the EU as the integration of sovereign countries

To have a strong EU, you have to have strong member states. For us, the key is that the EU is a Union of member states, and in that way, the European Council should stay in charge of nominating candidates for key roles. Also, all candidates should treat the member states with respect, while [the centre-left Spitzenkandidat] Timmermans and Weber were not obeying that rule.

Timmermans was spreading lies about Central European countries, and that was unacceptable. On the other hand, Weber stated in an interview that he does not need Fidesz’s support to become the Commission’s president. He made a statement that if it depends on the votes of the Hungarians, he does not want to become the president of the European Commission. This means that he considers Hungarians less valuable than other Europeans. This is again, unacceptable.

Is Ursula von der Leyen an ally to you?

Definitely. We have had a very good relationship with her. I have negotiated with her quite many times, and she has always been very respectful. We will have debates for sure, as it is normal for 28 different states with various backgrounds and conflicting interests. The key, however, is to preserve mutual respect. We believe that von der Leyen will do a good job in that regard.

What is the future of Fidesz in EPP?

Helmut Kohl invited us to join the group, but it will be our decision in the end whether we will stay in that political family or not. We are by far the most successful party in EPP, but we do have some red lines. As we made it clear, the EPP should move back to the place it was when we joined. The EPP has moved significantly towards the left.

The two components have been shaping each other over the decades, but the S&D has shaped the EPP more than vice-versa. It is not a secret that we would rather see the EPP opening more to the right than to the left, but everything will be decided soon. The EPP has to start representing Christian democracy again, and the key issue for us, the one that will eventually decide our future, might be migration policy.

What is the alternative for Fidesz? Is it ECR? Maybe ID?

To be honest, we have not evaluated our positions yet. We are currently in the EPP, and we would like to in it stay as well.

Do you think that von der Leyen will manage to form a gender-balanced Commission? Will your government send two candidates, as requested?

Since her announcement, we have not had a cabinet meeting, so we did not manage to discuss that issue. László Trócsányi, the Hungarian candidate, is very capable and I am sure he will be a successor of Mr. Navracsics.

[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Georgi Gotev]

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