What matters most when it comes to the European Union’s migrant redistribution system is not whether it is mandatory but that it should be automatic, Luxembourg European People’s Party MEP Frank Engel told public news channel M1 in an interview aired on Tuesday evening.
Engel, who as a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) last month suggested that the EU should set up a body to manage a mandatory and permanent migrant quota mechanism across the continent, said that under the previous quota scheme, Hungary would only have had to take in 1,250 migrants.
He said Hungary “would not even have noticed” the presence of those arrivals, arguing that the country had taken in far more migrants in its communist era.
Engel said he believed that having member states that refuse to take in migrants would not work in the long run. He said refusal to take in refugees was “un-European behaviour”. A country that does not take in migrants “cannot be a European country”, he said, arguing that “we were all migrants”.
Engel said that Luxembourg had taken in many Hungarian refugees after Hungary’s anti-Soviet uprising of 1956. “Border fences are not a solution in the long run,” he added.
He said he fully agreed with those who emphasise the need to protect their countries’ borders, but said that it was not border fences or the “frightening atmosphere” that had stopped the wave of migrants entering Europe. Rather, the migration pressure eased because the migration wave ended, he said.
The MEP said he accepted the view that the EU would not be able to implement the migrant quota scheme in the long run if certain member states refuse to take part in it.
Everything has to be organised logistically, and if a country wants to stay out of the scheme, it cannot be forced to take part in it, Engel said.
He said that instead of reducing cohesion funds to countries that do not accept migrants, a more realistic option would be to oblige the member states in question to contribute more funds to the EU which the bloc could then contribute to global stabilisation efforts.