Hungary will not comply with a European Union request to add non-EU countries to a “safe” travel list, except for Serbia, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said.
The 27-member bloc gave majority approval on Tuesday to leisure or business travel from 14 countries beyond its borders in a move aimed at supporting the EU travel industry and tourist destinations.
The countries are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.
“For the time being we cannot support the EU’s request … because this would go against the healthcare interests of the Hungarian people,” he said in a video posted on his Facebook page on Thursday.
Serbia, Hungary’s only southern neighbour which is outside the EU, is home to a large ethnic Hungarian minority.
Italy, which has one of the highest COVID-19 death tolls in the world, has also said it would opt out and keep quarantine restrictions in place for all nations that were not part of the free-travel Schengen area.
For people transiting through Hungary to other countries, Hungary would reinstate a “humanitarian corridor” that was in place at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in Europe, Orban said.
“Anyone travelling through Hungary will have to use this (corridor),” Orban said. “They will not be allowed to leave this path and we will keep strict border controls in place.”
As of Wednesday, Hungary reported 4,157 coronavirus cases with 586 deaths.
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Alison Williams)