Viktor Orbán admitted today that he has no idea what will happen at midnight at the Serb-Hungarian border, but he knows one thing: “Hungarians must make every effort for the defense of their freedom, their culture, and their customs.” Hungarians “are running for their lives” from the dangers of a foreign invasion. No time can be wasted. Every minute counts. On the territory of Hungary there will be no refugee camp, even if it is called a “hot spot.” The reference is to a European Union suggestion to set up new reception facilities for asylum seekers, like the ones that already exist in Italy and Greece. That would have meant an international team on the ground in Hungary that could have helped the overburdened Hungarians process the newcomers. Naive European politicians. They didn’t understand that Orbán doesn’t want any help because he has no intention of allowing any asylum seeker to stay for any length of time in Hungary.
In the last few days Hungary has been swept clean of refugees. There is no longer even a pretense of taking part in a joint European effort to handle the crisis. On the one hand, close to 4,000 soldiers, after a crash how-to course, have been speedily building a much more formidable fence than the earlier temporary one. And on the other, in the last few days, also with great speed, the Hungarians have been sending their unwanted refugees on to Austria. Who said that Hungarians can’t organize? They can if they want to.
Only a few hundred yards from the Austro-Hungarian border at Szentgotthárd they set up a “pseudo-camp” with about 400 beds. Busloads of unregistered refugees arrive one after the other, but the beds remain empty. The new arrivals get off the bus and walk straight into Austria. Röszk, the notorious registration center near Szeged, is now a ghost camp. And train after train leaves Budapest bound for Hegyeshalom, each with 1,700 refugees aboard. Within a few hours no refugee will be found in Hungary. The few stragglers at the border will be allowed in, only to be sent back to Serbia within a few days. Others who cross the border illegally, over the fence, will be arrested. This is the master plan.
This is all very simple, but it looks to me as if Brussels still doesn’t quite understand what’s going on in Budapest. They don’t seem to grasp Viktor Orbán’s goals. Why didn’t he take advantage of assistance from Brussels? Why did he turn down the offer to relieve Hungary of 54,000 asylum seekers when over the past two years Hungary has processed more than 200,000, although practically all of them have since left the country? The reason for his refusal is that in accepting the offer, Hungary would tacitly have admitted responsibility for some of the refugees that traversed the country. And the Hungarian position, although not publicly admitted, is that not one refugee will ever be welcome in the country, whether coming from Serbia or shipped back from the west. The same applies to the offer of setting up “hot spots” along the border. It’s time for EU politicians and officials to recognize that, for all practical purposes, as far as the current refugee crisis is concerned, Hungary is no longer a member of the European Union.
It does seem that patience in Brussels is waning fast. Yesterday Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, told Der Spiegel that they will stick to their plans “with or without Hungary.” One must keep in mind that Luxembourg holds the presidency of the European Union and it will be Asselborn who will chair the next meeting of the EU foreign ministers. It looks as if it has been pretty well decided that if Hungary refuses to take advantage of the EU offer of lightening Hungary’s load by 54,000 refugees, the EU will divvy up the offer between Greece and Italy, perhaps even Germany and Sweden. This sounds very resolute and unusually firm given the usually weak responses coming from Brussels, but the fact is that it is no threat to Viktor Orbán, who figures that after a lot of legal wrangling no one will be able to send any refugees back to Hungary. Thus his country will escape the onslaught of people of alien culture and religion. Hungary will remain Hungarian.
If it gets to this point, I believe that, however reluctant the European Commission and Parliament might be, they must respond forcefully. The Austrian chancellor already mentioned the possibility of decreasing financial payments to the former Soviet bloc countries, among whom Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia are the least cooperative. If they don’t, Viktor Orbán might just be the one who manages to topple the already rickety structure of a badly designed association of nation states. Viktor Orbán must be stopped for the sake of Europe.