Hungary’s Foreign Minister on Thursday evening called for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and warned that without it, “massive waves of migrants will hit the road” in search of healthcare and relief from the pandemic’s economic fallout.
Péter Szijjártó, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, praised the global medical and scientific communities for their fast development of the life-saving shots and stressed that: “Vaccination is the only answer. Vaccines must be provided to everybody and produced in as many places as possible.”
Vaccines should not be a matter of ideology or politics because saving lives should not be ideological or political, he continued, urging regulations at the national, regional, and international level to authorize various types of vaccines “based on facts, leaving politics out of the equation.”
Impact of the pandemic
Noting that millions of jobs have been lost worldwide, the global flow of trade and investment had been disrupted, the Foreign Miniter said the most important task now is to save as many jobs as possible, or at least to recover the lost jobs and create new ones.
“People must make their living from work and not depend on social aid, which puts them in a defenseless position, makes them vulnerable and brings states into indebtedness,” Mr. Szijjártó said in his in-person address to the high-level debate of the UN General Assembly.
After being held almost entirely virtually last year due to the pandemic, this year’s gathering is being held in a hybrid format, combining in-person and virtual participation.
Conversely, the Foreign Minister continued, work brings dignity and a predictable future, he said, noting that Hungary has decided to pay back income tax to families with children if economic growth reaches 5.5 per cent.
Pandemic-migration ‘vicious circle’
Calling on the international community to move swiftly to address the pandemic’s economic fallout, Mr. Szijjártó warned: “If we are not able to ensure vaccinations; if we are not able to tackle the economic challenges, then there will be further massive migratory waves launched.”
Indeed, he explained: “The pandemic and migration together make up a kind of vicious circle. The more serious the health care and economic impacts of COVID-19, the more people will hit the road.”
As such, he said that migration does not only comprise “civilizational and security risks”, it includes very serious health risks as well.
“Without vaccines for everybody, there will be future massive waves of migration,” he argued, reiterating that the more the virus spreads, the more people will migrate, and as more people migrate, the more the virus will spread.
He went on to note that, after 20 years in Afghanistan, the international community must admit its failure and analyze what mistakes were made. But for now, the main duty was to mitigate the damage. Afghanistan must not become a safe haven for terrorists again, but at the same time, additional migration from that country would be a direct security threat in the region and in Europe.
“We have to strengthen the global fight against terror and here, the United Nations should play an important role. But the United Nations will not be able to play that role until the UN Counterterrorism Office is funded as a part of the Organization’s regular budget” Mr. Szijjártó argued.
For its part, Hungary had evacuated all Afghans who had assisted its troops that participated in the international mission, “and we will take care of them, but we will not receive anyone else”.
The Foreign Minister recalled that Hungary had opposed the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and he vowed that his country would protect its border, stand up to pressure and decide for itself who will enter its territory.