Sunday

11th Dec 2016

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

News in Brief

  1. Council of Europe critical of Turkey emergency laws
  2. Italian opposition presses for anti-euro referendum
  3. Danish MP wants warning shots fired to deter migrants
  4. Defected Turkish officers to remain in Greece
  5. Most child asylum seekers are adults, says Denmark
  6. No school for children of 'illegal' migrants, says Le Pen
  7. Ombudsman slams EU Commission on tobacco lobbying
  8. McDonald's moves fiscal HQ to UK following tax probe

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Use Bioenergy Coming From Forests in a Sustainable Way?
  2. Counter BalanceReport Reveals Corrupt but Legal Practices in Development Finance
  3. Swedish EnterprisesMEPs and Business Representatives Debated on the Future of the EU at the Winter Mingle
  4. ACCASets Out Fifty Key Factors in the Public Sector Accountants Need to Prepare for
  5. UNICEFSchool “as Vital as Food and Medicine” for Children Caught up in Conflict
  6. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election
  7. CESICongress Re-elects Klaus Heeger & Romain Wolff as Secretary General & President
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  9. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  10. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  11. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  12. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First