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04/12/2016

Luxembourg foreign minister wants Hungary out of EU

Justice & Home Affairs

Luxembourg foreign minister wants Hungary out of EU

Jean Asselborn accused Hungary of treating refugees worse than "wild animals".

[European Commission]

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, has called for Hungary to be thrown out of the European Union. EurActiv Germany reports.

“We cannot accept that the basic values of the European Union are being so seriously breached,” Asselborn told German newspaper Die Welt. Anyone who builds fences to stem the flow of refugees or limits press freedoms and the independence of the judiciary, as Hungary has been accused of doing, should be temporarily or permanently “excluded from the EU”, warned the foreign minister.

He added that “Hungary would have no chance at becoming an EU member today.”

Asselborn said that the EU cannot tolerate “such misconduct” on the part of Hungary and the exclusion would be “the only way of preserving the cohesion and values of the European Union”.

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The foreign minister of the Grand Duchy also called for treaty change, so that a member of the bloc could be suspended even in the absence of a unanimous vote. Asselborn said that changing the rules to this effect would be “helpful”.

The refugee policy of Viktor Orbán’s government came in for particular criticism from Asselborn, who said that people fleeing from the war in Syria and Iraq have been treated “worse than wild animals”.

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He also denounced Budapest’s decision to erect a border fence which is getting “longer, higher and more dangerous”. Asselborn ominously warned that Hungary is only a few steps away from issuing shoot-on-sight orders to its border guards and that anyone trying to scale the fence can now “expect the worst”.

The Luxembourger also got personal when talking about the Hungarian prime minister, accusing “types like Orbán” of outwardly defending the EU’s values to the international community, but turning his back on them in practice.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier reacted by saying he did not share the view expressed by his Luxembourg counterpart.

“This is not an agreed position in Europe,” Steinmeier said at a news conference in Riga. “I can understand, looking at Hungary, that some in Europe are getting impatient… however, it is not my personal approach to show a European member state the door,” he added.

Later in the day, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó hit back at Asselborn’s outburst, calling him “condescending, uppity, and frustrated”. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka agreed, criticising Asselborn for causing even more division ahead of the Bratislava summit, which is intended to bring a splash of unity to the bloc.

Szijjártó also told state news agency MTI only Hungarians could decide who they were willing to live with, a right that neither Brussels bureaucrats nor the Luxembourg foreign minister could take away.