Wednesday

17th Jan 2018

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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.

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.

Farage claims Barnier 'does not get' Brexit

The first official meeting between EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and leading Brexit campaigner, MEP Nigel Farage has no impact on the talks, but gave a chance for the former UKIP leader to boast.

Magazine

Brexit timeline - 'The clock is ticking'

'The clock is ticking' - a favourite phrase of EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier - has become a stark warning, as the UK government took nine months to initiate the Brexit process and even longer to clarify its positions.

Magazine

Michel Barnier: The UK's best friend in Brussels

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator is an atypical French politician, with a love for mountains and Europe. He has been steering Brexit talks with a steady hand, and a deal could catapult him to the higher echelons of EU politics.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  2. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  3. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  4. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  5. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  6. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted
  7. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  8. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  9. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  10. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  11. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  12. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology

Latest News

  1. Ombudsman asks ECB chief to quit secret bankers group
  2. Polish MEP backed by 'spam' emails in Nazi-jibe row
  3. Macron eyes France-UK border agreement
  4. Catalonia prepares for rule by Skype
  5. Post-Brexit trade roll-over not automatic, EU paper says
  6. Oettinger pushes plastic tax but colleagues express doubts
  7. MEPs target exports of cyber surveillance tech
  8. Kosovo killing halts EU talks in Brussels

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  2. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  4. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  6. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  7. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  8. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  9. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  10. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  11. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla