Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Hungary rejects EU offer to take refugees

  • Orban argues that Hungary is not a frontline country in the migration crisis, as asylum seekers first set foot on EU soil in Greece (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Hungary has declined to take part in the mandatory relocation of asylum seekers amid initial EU talks, even though the plan would have helped the country by relocating 54,000 asylum seekers from Hungary around the EU.

Two sources told EUobserver that Hungary said No at an EU ambassadors' meeting in Brussels on Thursday (10 September).

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A third source indicated that Austria and Germany offered to take Hungary's quota instead.

Thursday's talks come ahead of a meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers on Monday, in which the European Commission hopes to clinch a deal on the mandatory distribution of 120,000 refugees.

Hungary would also have received €500 per relocated asylum seeker from the EU for transportation and other costs under the plan.

The two other beneficiaries are Italy and Greece, which have also experienced a sharp increase in migrants fleeing conflict in the Middle East and in Asia.

"The Hungarians think it [the EU plan] is only of superficial help. They argue that the result of the first relocation scheme in May only served as an invitation for more asylum seekers to come, so they disagree with the whole scheme", said a source familiar with Thursday's discussion.

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban will try to hammer out the differences over the weekend.

Hungary has received 157,746 asylum requests so far this year, the country's immigration authority said on Tuesday. It has already halted the asylum procedure for 60,000 requests, because the applicants left the country.

Hungary received 42,777 applications for asylum in 2014.

Sources say Orban took exception to the fact that Hungary was not offered extra help in the first Commission proposal on migration - made in May, to relocate 40,000 from Greece and Italy - even though the crisis was already in view.

Last week in Brussels, Orban did not say if Hungary would participate in the scheme. "We haven't got any offer like that, if we get it we'll think about it," he said.

But he insisted that Hungary is not a frontline country, saying almost all migrants who arrive in Hungary first stepped onto EU soil in Greece.

Other eastern EU members at a meeting on Friday in Prague also stuck to their rejection of compulsory quotas.

"We're convinced that as countries we should keep control over the number of those we are able to accept and then offer them support," Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek told reporters at a joint press conference with his Hungarian, Polish, and Slovak counterparts, AFP reports.

’It will be difficult’

The Luxembourg EU presidency is hoping for a political agreement on Juncker’s plan at the ministers' meeting on Monday.

Germany and France have thrown their weight behind the proposal, but eastern European and Baltic member states remain reluctant.

"It will be a difficult" discussion, an EU source said.

For his part, EU Council chief Donald Tusk said he'd call a special summit later this month if there's no outcome.

A binding legal decision on the proposals can be taken on 8 October at another meeting of EU ministers.

The ministers will, on Monday, also give formal approval to the Commission's previous proposal on relocating 40,000 migrants on a voluntary basis.

Interior ministers in asylum showdown

Interior ministers are gathering in Brussels to discuss EU commission plans to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers amid a widening rift between member states.

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