Hungary causes diplomatic spat over EU’s migration stance

European Border and Coast Guard Agency officers from Netherlands (L) and Bulgaria (R) monitor the border between Bulgaria and Turkey at the check point Kapitan Andreevo, southeast Bulgaria, 07 October 2016. [EPA/VASSIL DONEV]

Hungary is threatening to block a common EU position for cooperation with the Arab League. The reason, once again, is migration policy. EURACTIV Germany’s media partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

Before meeting representatives of the EU and the Arab League in Brussels this Monday (4 February), Hungary announced it is blocking a unified European line in migration policy. During last week’s deliberations at the EU level, the blockade of Hungary nearly led to a scandal.

“On Friday, we became witnesses of a diplomatic rampage in Hungary,” an EU diplomat told the German press agency dpa.

This Monday in Brussels, foreign ministers from the EU and the Arab League, chaired by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, plan to prepare a summit scheduled for 24-25 February in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

They are meant to discuss shared challenges facing both the EU and the Arab League – terrorism, climate change, human rights and migration.

However, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is bothered by the last point.

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The European External Action Service (EEAS) has put forward a proposal for the final declaration for the Arab-European Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, mentioning both the validity of international migration law and the UN migration pact.

Hungary had already withdrawn from the migration pact last July. Obviously, the country is standing alone with the blockade of deeper cooperation with the countries of the Arab League.

Asselborn: Orbán likes his role

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn criticised the Hungarian government’s approach to migration policy.

“Hungary sees itself as the spearhead of the West against Islam – with barbed wire, a taboo on the existence of refugees and zero solidarity within the European Union,” he told the Tagesspiegel.

“Orbán likes this role,” he said, referring to the Hungarian prime minister’s rejection of a common EU asylum policy.

“If coalitions between Orbán, Le Pen and Salvini come to fruition soon before the European elections, then you can not look away indifferently,” Asselborn added.

Already last August, Orbán and Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini had announced a common approach to the European elections.

Subsequently, Salvini and the leader of the far-right French “Rassemblement National”, Marine Le Pen, had promised a “revolution in Europe” to the voters in their countries.

Hungary’s FM Szijjarto rejects EU position

The Hungarian government’s negative attitude towards a common position of the EU and the North African and Arab States on migration is not surprising.

Last week, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said after a meeting with his Eritrean counterpart Osman Saleh Mohammed that his country does not share the EU’s position that migration would be unavoidable given the situation on the African continent.

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Previously, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in September 2017 that Hungary and Slovakia must join in redistributing refugees.

Both countries had challenged a decision by the EU’s interior ministers, alleging that 120,000 refugees to relieve Italy and Greece in other EU countries must be relocated using a fixed distribution key.

The number of refugees in the EU has declined compared to 2015 and 2016. But because of the negative attitude of Hungary and other Eastern European states, there is still no consensus among EU countries on how the so-called Dublin asylum system can be reformed in the long term.

The existing Dublin Regulation stipulates that states such as Italy and Greece, where refugees first enter EU territory, are also responsible for their asylum procedures.

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