The Hungarian governing party, Fidesz, has been convinced that one of the roots of terrorism can be found in immigration. “The European Union is incapable of protecting its member states, and for this reason these states, including Hungary, must protect themselves,” Antal Rogán said commenting on the Paris terror attack, where 16 people were killed, earlier in January. Indeed, the Hungarian government’s anti-immigration rhetoric seems to have started – or at least intensified – after the terrible massacre in France. Since then, the Hungarian premier as well as other government officials have been advocating that immigration policy must be transformed with a view to the whole of Europe.
Naturally, opposing parties both in Hungary and Europe have accused the Hungarian prime minister and its government as being anti-Semitic and xenophobic, and expressed their disagreement on Hungary’s view, for, according to them, the Hungarian government treats whoever crosses the green-border illegally in an inhuman manner. Furthermore, such statements that spokesperson Bence Tuzson communicated through the Hungarian media concerning the possible, long-term consequences of the current refugee crises, of course, only fuels this antipathy. “If immigrants arriving in Europe develop a unique subculture that degenerates into a deviant culture, for instance as a result of unemployment, then their communities will turn into hotbeds for crime,” said Tuzson in January.
The setting up a fence on the Serbian border to block the migration route also incited opposing views against the way the Orbán government treats the crisis. By erecting the barrier, the government risked that it would be condemned for its inhumanity and cruelty. However, Fidesz lawmaker Szilárd Németh told public news channel M1: “As a Schengen country, Hungary is legally protecting not only its own borders but also the EU’s.” Indeed, the EU has a legal system which includes the Schengen Agreement and the Dublin Regulation, both of them represent common European values and conventions. “Hungary would continue to abide by EU regulations, including the Schengen rules,” said Péter Szijjártó recently, adding that member states are responsible for protecting the EU’s borders and enforcing the laws on crossing them. Recently, Viktor Orbán also commented on the strong criticism his government has received as a result of the deployment of a border police to the Serbian border, saying: “the EU was right to make borders between member states fade into insignificance, but Hungary also has external borders to protect, under a legal obligation in the Schengen Agreement. Hungary has built a barrier in order to keep to Schengen rules, and while there is no guarantee that this will suffice, it must try all it can to protect the external borders,” he said.
Nevertheless, according to Viktor Orbán, those who are hunted should be assisted as Hungary is a Christian country, which has compassion in its heart, but economic immigrants must be rejected. The problem is that it is almost impossible to find the clear-cut difference between the two. On the subject of the events at Budapest’s Keleti railway station, he said: “German communications had been at the root of the chaos,” since the Germans had made an invitation by granting every Syrian refugee crossing the German border immediate refugee status without applying for it, which turned out to be a “false promise.” A false promise that is incomprehensible at the same time. Although the German government had known it very well that Hungary must register those immigrants that cross the border illegally as it is laid down in the Dublin Regulation, it literally invited Syrians. The situation that emerged from it brought Hungary and its people to the centre of the world’s criticism, and provided ill-wishers a great chance to communicate false images about Hungary, and the way it had been trying to deal with the extremely massive influx of immigrants.
Whatever the standpoints of opposing political parties are, and whether they only try to make use of the current crisis to decrease each other’s popularity or not, facts are facts: The number of asylum-seekers arriving in or passing through Hungary has increased ten-fold over the past few years. Although there are voices suggesting that only a minority of these people are political refugees, this data speaks for itself, and no one pure-minded should reject that this is a huge burden on Europe, and that a joint resolution would be inevitable.
The question arises: How? This is the question that should enjoy top priority, and be answered by diplomatic tools. The possible solution may be found in EC President Jean-Claude Juncker’s idea expressed in his annual State of the Union address delivered on 9 September in Strasbourg: “It is time we prepare a more fundamental change in the way we deal with asylum applications – and notably the Dublin system that requires that asylum applications be dealt with by the first country of entry,” said the premier.
Distribute the people in need, says the West, whereas Hungary considers the quota system on migrants put forward by the European Commission “unpredictable, unplannable and unclear,” said János Lázár earlier in May. Similarly, according to the V4 countries: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia the refugee quota cannot be transposed into real life. Distributing illegal immigrants among EU member states is an “illusory” solution, the Hungarian prime minister told a news conference in Brussels a few days ago. According to him, this way of handling the crises would be taken as an invitation to migrants to march towards Europe. But what would happen once the immigrants have been distributed and how it would be possible to keep them in their designated state? Instead, says the premier, Europe should concentrate on restoring the control at its external borders.
Although his approach contradicts the EU’s at its roots, it, at least, appears to meet the demands of the Hungarian population, two-thirds of which are in favour of restricting immigration, according to a research conducted in January by the think-tank Századvég, and this collective opinion is still valid. Two-thirds of Hungarians want the country’s immigration rules to be tightened, and the majority believe that the European Union is incapable of protecting European citizens from a similar attack to the Paris terrorist massacre.” If it becomes clear on the Balkans that it is not worth coming to Hungary, migrants will avoid the country,” said the prime minister, suggesting what his government’s aim would be in the long-run.
Apart from considering the EU unable to protect its citizens form terrorist attacks, there is one more thing why the Hungarian government – and the Hungarian people living in the current economic hardship – is firmly against the quota system: “We are unable to provide jobs for immigrants,” said Viktor Orbán in May, indicating that European politicians should make a clear distinction between refugees persecuted in their homeland and those arriving in Europe hoping for a higher standard of living.
As a result of the past few months, Hungary has been outraged and criticised over its politics with reason, but there are other leading EU officials and politicians who seem to agree with the Hungarian government’s standpoint. Manfred Weber, the group leader of the European People’s Party Europe – the largest party in the European Commission – for example, thinks that Europe must admit asylum-seekers who are fleeing a civil war and whose lives are endangered, but not economic migrants. Francois Hollande, the current President of France, also shared the view that the refugee quota cannot be transposed into real life, however, he insisted that: “degree of voluntary solidarity shall be manifested in relation to the management of this issue.”
Jean-Claude Juncker used his annual State of the Union address in Strasbourg to unveil an ambitious plan to tackle Europe’s migrant crisis. Mr Juncker’s proposals would see 160,000 refugees redistributed under a compulsory scheme from Italy, Greece, and Hungary to all other member states – excluding Britain, Ireland, and Denmark, who are exempt from EU treaties. According to him, “there is a lack of Europe in this union, and a lack of union in this union,” and this needs to be solved.
Emigration, for a long time, represented more of a problem for Europe than immigration, but we need to realise that this no longer the case, or at least, not in the near future. It is undeniable that the rapid increase in the number of immigrants arriving to European shores requires swift measures both at community and at national level if European civilisation and values as we know them are to be preserved. Undoubtedly, diplomatic tools should be employed in Hungary as well, in liaison with the European Union. “There is no religion, no belief, no philosophy when it comes to refugees,” said President Juncker in his State of the Union address, indicating that everyone entering is welcome in Europe. We look forward to living on a continent where there is order, peace, and harmony between different ethnicities, but it can only be achieved if the people currently labelled as refugees, asylum-seekers, or immigrants and their descendants accept that it is their obligation to integrate into the European society, which sometimes even we, locals find difficult to sustain.
written by Gábor Hajnal
Photo: Balazs Beli
Source: Daily News Hungary