Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán today (29 June) blamed the British vote to quit the European Union on the EU’s inability to handle the refugee crisis.
Orbán refused to personally blame European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for Brexit and said Hungary was not one of the countries pushing for “personal consequences” for him.
Juncker has come under pressure to resign in the wake of the UK referendum, which was held last Thursday.
“It would not be a very pertinent act to go on and attack the leader of the institution. Of course we do have an opinion of personnel performance but it is not appropriate to attack,” Orbán said in reference to Juncker.
But he added that the seeds of the Leave result could have been sown when he and British Prime Minister David Cameron were overruled on Juncker’s appointment by other EU leaders in 2014.
Last night Cameron told EU leaders that inflexibility of EU freedom of movement rules had cost him the referendum and his job.
“I am putting it bluntly here because English people tend to be more sophisticated, the lack of a decisive and common method to handle migration was the paramount reason for the exit,” Orbán said after the second meeting of EU leaders in two days (29 June).
EU leaders will meet to discuss the post-Brexit direction of Europe in Bratislava on 16 September. The UK will not attend.
“We cannot speak of more or less Europe. If they want more Europe in order to bring them in and distribute them, in this case we would want as little Europe as possible,” Orbán said
“We have to separate the two issues of migration and EU membership. We will have a referendum on migration policy and not on membership, otherwise we will drift the same way as the UK,” Orbán said.
No Hungarian Brexit
Hungary’s would not hold a referendum on its EU membership. But Orbán added, “If a country has to leave the EU to stop bad migration policies this is very bad news and that is what we understand happened in the UK.”
Hungary erected a controversial fence on its border with Serbia as the EU struggles to deal with the biggest refugee crisis since World War Two.
The Commission is pushing a system to relocate refugees from Greece and Italy, across the bloc, which Orbán opposes.
He said there was a mix of “disappointment, uncertainty and emotions” last night when Cameron presented the European Council with the results of the referendum. Cameron was not invited to today’s meeting of 27 leaders.
“This is not just about one member state exiting,” Orbán said, “It is the fifth largest economy in the world.”
“It is a big loss, a great loss [to Hungary]. On various occasions we were the two standing alone together and that builds intimacy.”
The Hungarian leader said that the question was often asked about how democratic the EU institutions were. He said only national governments could give democratic legitimacy.
Orbán said, “We have to go back to the thought it was member states on which the Union was built, not the EU institutions.
“We should not sit on a horse facing backwards. The EU is not in Brussels but in 27, 28 member states and the venue where we cooperate is Brussels.”
But Orbán said that the responsibility for the Brexit vote lay with British voters, whose will needed to be respected.
“Of course the EU should work in a more effective way and performances could be better. Prime ministers’ performances could be better, including me,” he said. “Hungary will not be one of the member states that urges a personal consequence [for Juncker],” he added.
Cameron and Orbán were the only two EU leaders to oppose Juncker’s appointment in 2014. It was the first time a Commission president was not elected by unanimous agreement of all heads of state and governments.
It was also the first time that a president was elected through the Spitzenkandidat process, an attempt to imbue the post with democratic legitimacy. 2014 European Parliament election votes for European political parties were interpreted as backing US-style candidates for each party.
“We did not elect the Commission president with consensus. When something like that happens, we are not aware but these smaller stories seem to add up later.
“I am sure this story has something to do with the UK leaving us.”