Hungary expects solidarity from Europe
Commenting on Hungary’s request to the European Union that it pay a share of the cost of protecting the bloc’s external borders incurred by Hungary, the government spokesman said in a statement that “Hungary expects solidarity from Europe”.
“Hungary not only protects its own borders but the borders of Europe, too,” Zoltán Kovács said.
A key condition for European solidarity is complying with the rules; in this case the protection of the border, he said. “Since the beginning of the migration crisis, Hungary has firmly insisted on the laws that have been laid down. This is the basic yardstick of mutual solidarity,” he added.
He noted that Bulgaria had received 160 million euros from the EU to ease its budgetary burden in connection with border protection. Greece has received 1 billion euros and Italy several hundred million, he added.
“In the interest of justice and solidarity, the European Union should take its share of the cost of Hungarian border protection,” Kovács said.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has asked the European Commission to reimburse Hungary for half its spending on border protection, the government office chief said on Thursday. János Lázár said at a weekly press briefing that the total cost since the start of the migrant crisis amounted to 800 million euros.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that the security of European citizens was financed by Hungarian taxpayers,” Orbán wrote in a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, adding that protecting the external borders had cost Hungary 270 billion forints (EUR 883m), a sum that was unforeseen and “a significant burden” on the Hungarian budget.
At a press briefing in Brussels on Friday, European Commission spokesperson for budget and human resources Alexander Winterstein said the EU’s executive body would weigh the request made by Orbán.
“Whilst we encourage Hungary to make use of the funding already provided so far, if Hungary is now requesting additional support, then the Commission is ready to quickly examine such a request and provide the appropriate assistance, if the situation so requires and in accordance with European law,” Winterstein said.
However he suggested that the EC would stand by its earlier policy on constructing frontier barriers, such as a fence Hungary built along a stretch of its southern border.
“I will not go into details of [Hungary’s] request, but what I can tell you … is that we are not financing the construction of fences or barriers at the external borders. We do support border management measures … this can be surveillance measures, this can be border patrol equipment, but fences we do not finance,” Mr Winterstein said.