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5th Mar 2024

Hungary digs in against EU over migrants and LGBTi rights

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Hungary is ratcheting up its rhetoric against migrants and LGBTi rights amid an on-going standoff with the EU over frozen funds following an acrimonious debate in the European Parliament on stripping Budapest of its EU voting rights.

"No amount of money can make us accept migrants or allow our country to be taken away from us," said Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban in comments broadcasted in a radio interview on Friday (19 January).

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The comments follow a contentious decision by Hungarian authorities late last year to release more than 1,400 foreign convicts accused of people smuggling.

And it comes amid a more recent agreement by the EU institutions on a wide overhaul of EU asylum rules that will not force Hungary to accept relocations, a term used to describe the distribution of arriving asylum seekers among member states.

Hungary obtained some €10bn of EU funds in December, in a move sharply criticised by the European Parliament that has since threatened to take the European Commission to the European Court of Justice.

The country is still in line to receive another €20bn of EU funds linked to issues dealing with LGTBQI rights, academic freedoms and asylum.

But on Wednesday, European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said those funds "will remain blocked until Hungary fulfils all the necessary conditions."

Last year, the European Court of Justice ruled against Hungary for forcing prospective asylum seekers to initiate protection claims at embassies in Serbia and Ukraine.

And Hungary is still pushing back prospective asylum seekers into Serbia, including a case where authorities apprehended a child from a hospital and dropped him barefooted into a Serbian forest.

"They [Hungarian authorities] carried him because he could not walk on his own, yet he was forced to cross to Serbia," says the Budapest-based Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a civil rights organisation that has taken the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Hungary's so-called child-protection law, passed in 2021, is also largely seen by the European Commission as an onslaught against the LGBTI community.

Orban's morning statements followed his broader vision of the six-month rotating EU presidency he will spearhead starting in July.

The EU presidency under Hungary will coincide with elections in the United States where Donald Trump is leading the Republic nomination ahead of the November vote. The two leaders are on warm terms.

Analysis

Why concessions to Orbán will come back to bite EU

As the EU hopes to agree on further financial aid for Ukraine, fears are emerging over offering concessions to Hungary, which risk setting a dangerous precedent and the threats of legal challenges.

Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns

Germany is expanding agreements to return rejected asylum seekers to their countries of origin as part of a wider shift in Europe to curtail migration. Berlin has reached deals with Georgia and Morocco since December.

Opinion

Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?

Fewer than one-in-ten Ukrainian refugees intend to settle permanently outside Ukraine, according to new research by the associate director of research and the director of gender and economic inclusion at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

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