UNITED NATIONS - Hungary's foreign minister is rejecting accusations his government is racist, but said it does not accept that a multicultural society is better than a homogeneous one.
“We don’t accept that multiculturalism is a value by itself,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told VOA on Wednesday in an interview at the United Nations. “We don’t accept that multiculturalism would be better than a homogeneous society, for example. We think it’s up to the given nation, it’s up to the given society, to decide what is considered to be a value.”
Szijjártó was responding to a question about remarks made by the U.N. high commissioner for human rights last month, accusing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban of being a “racist,” a “bully” and a “xenophobe” because Orban said he did not want Hungary to be “multicolored.”
The foreign minister added that Hungary has been “a homogeneous united Hungarian Christian society” for 1,100 years and considers “this as a value.”
His comments came amid a rise in nationalist and anti-immigrant sentiment throughout parts of Europe.
Migration has been a key election issue in several recent European elections, and Hungary is no different. This Sunday, Hungarians will vote in general elections, and Orban and his right-wing Fidesz party are overwhelmingly favored to stay in power.
Szijjártó is at the United Nations this week for negotiations on a Global Compact on Migration. In December, the United States pulled out of the discussions, saying the proposed pact was not consistent with Trump administration immigration policies.
“We agree with the American administration that this is a very biased, very unbalanced and very extremely radically pro-migration document,” Szijjártó told VOA on Wednesday. “So this goes totally against our migration policy, just like it goes against the migration policy of the current administration here.”
But despite its objections, Szijjártó said Hungary would remain in the migration negotiations and seek changes to the document.
The U.N. discussions are part of a process to draft a multilateral agreement that would cover all aspects of safe, orderly and regular migration. The United Nations estimates there are about 244 million migrants in the world, or just over 3 percent of the world's population.
Hungary’s location at the crossroads of two popular migration routes brought it more than 440,000 mostly Syrian and Afghan refugees and migrants in 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Most were passing through to reach other European Union countries, but the massive influx was seen as disruptive and unwelcome by the Hungarian government.
Hungary has since constructed fences along its southern border and enacted legislation that has significantly reduced irregular migration across its territory.
“We don’t think it’s a fundamental human right that to wake up in the morning, you finger-point on some country on the globe that you want to live there,” Szijjártó said. “And in order to get there you violate borders and you make everything to get there.”
The foreign minister told VOA that Hungarians do have a fundamental human right to live in safe conditions in their own country and that security comes first.
“We will never accept that anyone gives priority to the questionable rights of migrants against the right of the Hungarian people to have a safe life back in Hungary,” he said.