The head of the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office said on Thursday that altogether 11 808 people have attempted to enter Hungary illegally so far this year, with 2 418 of those attempts being made this month.
Gergely Gulyas told a regular press briefing that migrants were now using new techniques to try to breach Hungary’s border fence such as burying under the fence: already two tunnels discovered by the police have been sealed, he added.
Ethnic Hungarian politicians in northern Serbia’s Vojvodina region have also reported a sharp rise in the number of illegal migrants in the area, Gulyas said, adding that a clear signal should be sent to migrants attempting to reach Europe via the Western Balkan route: they will stopped on the Hungarian-Serbian border or another external EU border.
Concerning the political situation in Europe, Gulyas said Wednesday’s vote of confidence in the European Parliament on the new European Commission showed that the body now enjoyed far greater support than EC President Ursula von der Leyen had in the summer.
He said the neighbourhood and enlargement portfolio to be overseen by Oliver Varhelyi was “the most important” portfolio assigned to Hungary since the country joined the bloc in 2004. Gulyas said the government was convinced that Varhelyi would serve the interests of both Europe and Hungary in his post.
In response to a question, Gulyas said Democratic Coalition MEP Klara Dobrev’s warning that her party would initiate Varhelyi’s removal from office were he found to be following the government’s instructions held no merit, arguing that neither scenario was possible.
He said Varhelyi was “far better versed” in the functioning of the EU than Dobrev, adding that Dobrev had only used her position as an MEP to “prevent the approval” of the government’s original commissioner-designate.
The career diplomat Varhelyi, served as Hungary’s EU ambassador in Brussels previously. He was grilled by MEPs in the parliament’s foreign affairs committee over his loyalty to Premier Viktor Orban. Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also raised concerns if Varhelyi would follow EU interests in regional policies.
Varhelyi has urged the EU to have a “full reflection” on relations with Turkey, despite their overlapping interests on migration and customs.
He said that the bloc needs to address “negative developments in rule of law and human rights, provocative and illegal drilling in Mediterranean sea, and military intervention in Syria”. He said Turkey has been moving away from EU values and norms.