Commission responds to Orbán’s latest anti-immigration campaign

Campaign in the Hungarian newspapers against George Soros, Jean-Claude Juncker. [@NatashaBertaud Twitter]

The European Commission reacted strongly on Thursday (28 February) to a new anti-immigration campaign launched by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán earlier this week by saying it “distorts the truth”, and by refuting most of its points.

Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva said the college of commissioners had discussed the Hungarian migration campaign at their weekly meeting on Wednesday.

The Hungarian press reported that Orbán had written a “letter” to his compatriots, saying that “Brussels has learned nothing from the terrible terrorist attacks of recent years and wants to bring more immigrants to Europe”

The website Hungary Today quotes from the letter:

“The bureaucrats are now preparing to encourage immigration with new measures. After the introduction of the migrant visa and the migrant bank card, more money would be given to George Soros’ organizations, supporting immigration. They still want to distribute immigrants with obligatory quotas.”

The PM continued by saying Hungarians do not want their country to become an “immigrant country”:

“We want to protect our security and our Christian culture. That is why we have built a fence and we are protecting our borders. However, the bureaucrats in Brussels do not want to respect our decision. In order to achieve their goals, they want to break the resistance of countries that stand against immigration.”

The letter ends with words from a recent information campaign, stating that people have the right to know “what Brussels is up to.” According to the letter, there is an information package attached, detailing Brussels’ measures.

This is the second time that Orbán writes a “letter” to Hungarians against Brussels. In April 2017 he launched an initiative called “Let’s stop Brussels”, only days after leaders gathered in Rome to mark the EU’s 60th anniversary.

Commission unmoved by Orbán’s ‘Stop Europe’ initiative

Hungary launched an initiative called “Let’s stop Brussels” shortly after its prime minister returned from the Rome summit. Asked about it today (4 April), the Commission highlighted the fact that Viktor Orbán had signed the strongly pro-European text only days before.

The response

Andreeva said the Hungarian campaign, titled “You too have the right to know what Brussels is planning” “distorts the truth and seeks to paint a dark picture about a secret plot to drive more migration to Europe”.

She added: “We agree that people want to know the truth, and the truth is the following:

  • We don’t want to introduce mandatory resettlement quotas, but the resettlement of refugees from outside the EU was, is and will always remain on a purely voluntary basis.
  • The Commission doesn’t want to waken the member states right to defend their borders, but in fact the EU supports the national border protection.
  • The Commission has zero plans to introduce humanitarian visas.
  • The Commission does not work with any organisations that facilitate irregular migration.
  • The EU aid doesn’t encourage migration, but only assists refugees already in Greece. (She added that this is with regard to the so-called per-paid debit cards.)
  • It is member states that decide voluntarily whether they want or not to allow skilled legal migration when working with African countries.
  • EU funding is not linked to support or to opposition to migration by member states.”

Andreeva said that Commissioners agreed that clear answers were needed with regard to the serious allegations.

Andreeva was asked what the position of Hungarian Commissioner Tibor Navracsics had been during the College discussion. She answered that the Commission always takes consensual decisions.

“I speak in the name of the entire Commission to which Commissioner Navracsics belongs”, she said.

However, there has been a precedent of Navracsics taking one position in Brussels and a completely different stand in Hungary.

Thus, Navracsics said he had voted “No” in the October 2016 referendum in Hungary against the Commission-proposed migration quotas, although he did not oppose the proposal at the college level.

Navracsics voted against the Commission, but his EU commitment remains 'unshaken’

The Commission told EURACTIV today (20 October) that Hungarian Commissioner Tibor Navracsics had clarified with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that his commitment to the EU remains “unshaken”, despite the fact that he voted against the Commission’s policies in the Hungarian referendum.

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