Thursday

12th Dec 2019

Hungary distances itself from Slovak 'Brexit' threat

  • Hungary's PM Orban announced plans in August to erect a second fence along its border with Serbia (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Hungary has distanced itself from threats to veto a UK deal should EU migrants not receive "equal" treatment once Britain leaves the EU.

Slovakia's prime minister Robert Fico said over the weekend that the Visegrad countries - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia - would veto any deal that did not guarantee equal rights to their citizens working and living in Britain.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

But Zoltan Kovacs, who speaks on behalf of Hungary's prime minister, played down Fico's comments.

"Do not over speculate on what has been said," he told reporters in Brussels on Monday (19 September).

Kovacs said any decision on the matter can't be taken until the full position of the UK government is known.

"It is very difficult to say anything," he added.

Power tussle

The Visegrad countries see Britain's future exit as an opportunity to claw back powers from EU institutions.

Earlier this month, Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban, along with Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski, both vowed a "counter-revolution" in a post-Brexit EU.

“Brexit is a fantastic opportunity for us. We are at a historic cultural moment,” said Orban.

The tussle between Hungary and the EU has been rumbling for years.

But last year's large inflow of people seeking international protection further stretched ties and emboldened Hungary.

Kovacs said Hungary would flat out refuse to accept any returns of asylum seekers who arrived last year from member states. "We are not going to take responsibility for the shortcomings of other countries," he said.

He said terrorists and criminal organisations had infiltrated the asylum inflows and posed a major security threat.

Hungary has already spent close to €300 million on securing its borders with Serbia and Croatia. Another fence, to reinforce the first along Serbia, was announced in late August.

Last year's asylum crisis has helped to boost far-right and nationalist movements elsewhere like in Germany and Austria. It has also given the Hungarians a sense of vindication for enacting tough anti-migrant policies, like border fences, once vilified by others.

Hungary imposes criminal sanctions on anyone caught cutting or climbing over its border fence and will send them back to Serbia.

The migration issue is giving the Visegrad countries a sense of empowerment over a broad swathe of other topics, including economic.

EU in 'stealth-mode'

Hungary also expects broad political and legal fallout in Brussels following the results of its forthcoming referendum, which will ask Hungarians if they want the EU to "prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without the consent of parliament".

"We believe that the message sent by the Hungarian voters is going to be unavoidable for everyone," said Kovacs.

Critics says the government campaign in the lead up to the 2 October referendum incites hatred against migrants and asylum seekers.

Thousands of billboards display messages that widely paint asylum seekers as a menace.

Kovacs says only Hungarians can decide who they live with and repeatedly accused the EU institutions of "stealth-mode decision making" when drafting mandatory quotas on relocation.

Hungary is supposed to relocate 1,294 people under a two-year scheme meant distribute some 160,000 asylum seekers arriving in Italy and Greece across EU states.

Budapest has taken the issue to the European Court of Justice and expects a judgment before the end of the year. But Kovacs says the referendum question has nothing to do with "previous decisions made on behalf of the European institutions".

Instead, he says Hungary has the final say when it comes to policies dealing migration, asylum seekers, and refugees.

"That's the solid and unshakable Hungarian political and legal position," he said.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Brexit: preparing for a bitter divorce

Conservatives Brexiteers and Labour leadership are increasingly leaning away from the Norwegian-style deal with the EU, towards a UK-specific arrangement.

EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner

The European Commission has started an infringement proceeding against the United Kingdom for failing to nominate a commissioner-candidate. The new commission, which wants to launch on 1 December, first requires a commissioner from each of the 28 EU states.

News in Brief

  1. Czechs protest against PM Babis over EU subsidy 'fraud'
  2. EU disbursed €2.7bn for Turkey refugees
  3. UK ports set to host EU border checks for Northern Ireland
  4. EU puts tech giants in crosshairs
  5. Faroe Islands under pressure to chose Huawei
  6. Hungary asked to apologise after council leak
  7. MEPs: Finnish budget proposal 'impossible to implement'
  8. EP committee supports 'Future of EU Conference'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Leaders to battle on climate target and money at summit
  2. Von der Leyen: 'Green Deal is our man-on-moon moment'
  3. North Atlantic mini states in geopolitical turbulence
  4. Survey marks EU optimism on eve of UK's Brexit election
  5. Six priorities for human rights
  6. European shipping's dirty secret
  7. Hungary quizzed over EU rules amid twitter row
  8. Spanish King meets party leaders to break deadlock

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us