Luxembourg wants Orbán isolated for ‘smashing’ EU values

Jean Asselborn [CTBTO/Flickr]

Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, sharply criticised Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Thursday (3 September) for saying refugees should not come to Europe, and that Muslims are not welcome in Hungary.

“One has to feel ashamed of Viktor Orbán,”  Asselborn told German broadcaster ZDF, calling Orbán a man who was smashing European values such as solidarity and helpfulness.

“We don’t need such paroles,” Asselborn said, adding that Orbán needed to be isolated in Europe and should not be an example for other leaders.

“All of us have seen these pictures of this little boy, we have seen these pictures from IS militants in Syria who use children as executioners. Orbán cannot turn a blind eye on that, he cannot just say we don’t want Muslims,” Asselborn said, referring to a horrifying picture of a small boy whose body was discovered, face down, on the beach in Bodrum, Turkey.

Christian values dictated that all people in danger had a right to protection, Asselborn remarked, adding: “He (Orbán) says he only wants Christians. If Orbán is a Christian, then (former North Korean leader) Kim Il Sung is a Christian too.”

In an article for the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Orbán wrote that the wave of mostly Muslim refugees coming to Europe threatens to undermine the continent’s Christian roots. “If you’re being overrun, you can’t accept” migrants,” he wrote , adding that most were Muslims, not Christians, while criticising the EU’s “failed immigration policy”.

“We must not forget that those who are coming in have been brought up under a different religion and represent a profoundly different culture,” wrote the right-wing Hungarian leader, who visited Brussels yesterday.

Speaking in the European Parliament, Orbán said that refugees should not risk their children’s lives trying to reach Europe, as he defended his tough approach to border control on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis.

Orbán also repeated that Hungary did not want to accept Muslim refugees, and that the refugee crisis was not a European problem, but “a German problem”.

>>Read: Orbán says migrant crisis is ‘Germany’s problem’

East-West divide

The migrant crisis marks a division between EU’s core countries, France and Germany, and the new members of Central and Eastern Europe.

France and Germany have agreed that the European Union, facing an unprecedented influx of migrants, should impose binding quotas on the numbers member states take in, Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday.

“I spoke this morning with the French president, and the French-German position, which we will transmit to the European institutions, is that we agree that … we need binding quotas within the European Union to share the burden. That is the principle of solidarity,” Merkel told reporters during a visit in the Swiss capital.

She insisted the bloc needed to adhere to the basic principle that “those who need protection … get it.”

Merkel said the “economic power and size (of countries) should play a role” in the number of migrants they are asked to take in, but stressed that without quotas, “we cannot solve this problem”.

French President Francois Hollande spoke separately in Paris, saying he had agreed with German Chancellor on the proposal for a refugee distribution quota. In the past, France repeatedly refused mandatory quotas for sharing the number of refugees among the countries of the European Union.

The Commission is reported to be preparing a new proposal based on a permanent mechanism for the redistribution of migrants based on mandatory quotas. A leaked draft of the proposal appears to confirmed that 160,000 asylum seekers from Hungary, Italy and Greece would be relocated.

That is an additional 120,000 people on top of the original 40,000 proposed by the executive in May. At that time, the proposal was rejected by many EU countries, including both old and new members.

>>Read: Ministers reject Commission’s immigrant quota proposal

Visegrad summit

To counter the new push by the Commission, the Czech Republic is hosting a summit today (4 September) in Prague with the leaders of Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. The four countries constitute a group inside the EU known as the Visegrad Four, or V4.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has said that his country strongly rejects any quotas.

“If a mechanism for automatic redistribution of migrants is adopted, then we will wake up one day and have 100,000 people from the Arab world, and that is a problem I would not like Slovakia to have,” Fico said last week.

>>Read: Slovakia calls Visegrad summit to oppose migrant quotas

Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz also said Poland would not accept quotas.

“Solutions not taking into account the given country’s abilities may prove completely counterproductive. That is why we are against any automatic quotas, but we are willing to talk about the scale of our engagement on voluntary terms,” she said, as quoted by Polish Radio.

The EU has to tackle the reasons for the arrival of migrants and not only focus on how to share them betweem countries, because otherwise Europe may soon face millions of them, Poland’s foreign minister Grzegorz Schetyna said.

“The scale of the migration is enormous, so we can’t focus – I’m talking about the whole of Europe – on allocating illegal migrants without fighting the causes (of their arrival),” Schetyna told private Radio Zet.

“We have to think of how to stop the illegal migration. Otherwise (we may have) soon have 3-4 million economic refugees,” he also said. 

The Czech Republic has taken a similar position. Prague is willing to talk about increasing the country’s voluntary burden sharing, but rejects the concept of mandatory quotas.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius last Sunday (30 August) remarked that it was “scandalous” that some Eastern European countries were refusing to accept more migrants, and said Hungary’s construction of a barrier to stop new arrivals “did not respect Europe’s common values”.

>>Read: Fabius calls Eastern Europe’s reluctance to receive migrants ‘scandalous’

Beyond any doubt, the issues will be discussed further as EU foreign affairs ministers meet for an informal meeting today and tomorrow in Luxembourg. 

  • 4-5 September: EU foreign affairs ministers to hold informal meeting in Luxembourg.

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