Here are a few examples of what a government-led hate campaign can do. About three weeks ago a Facebook group was formed where venom spews out from hundreds of comments. Some people openly discuss killing all the refugees. Then “there would be silence,” one of them wrote. A few days later a proud owner of an expensive Porsche with a Slovak licence plate threatened two women with a hand grenade because they gave a lift to a Syrian family on M1 on their way to Austria. A week later some students of a private high school in the New Buda district of Budapest spat into the dough of scones (pogácsa) the school was going to donate to the refugees. And today we learned that in a school in the third district a boy in the seventh grade held a knife to the throat of a half Nigerian-half Hungarian six-grader demanding that he leave the country because he was “an immigrant.”
This shameful anti-refugee propaganda intensified after the clashes between the security forces (TEK) and the refugees at Röszke. The more I read about this incident the more convinced I am that the members of TEK, which most people call Viktor Orbán’s private army, actually provoked the incident in order to reinforce the population’s antagonism toward the refugees. The more Hungarians fear these people the more grateful they will be to their brave, unyielding prime minister. The strategy has worked. Hungary’s reputation may have suffered immeasurably, but Fidesz’s popularity has shot up. Since the refugee crisis Fidesz has gained 300,000 new followers. The same strategy is working in Slovakia. I suspect that Robert Fico’s uncompromising stand in Brussels has a great deal to do with the fact that there will be national elections in Slovakia in six months’ time. As it stands, Fico’s party (Smer-SD) has gained support since the beginning of the crisis.
Over the weekend the Hungarian media learned that Viktor Orbán was ecstatic over the political gains he had achieved as a result of his position on the refugee crisis and his determination to keep the country Christian and ethnically pure. The next day Ipsos’s poll came out, confirming that the prime minister’s strategy was indeed a great political success. We don’t know, of course, how long Orbán can hold out against Brussels. What will happen if Hungary eventually has to permit EU officials to establish “hot spots” where uniform standards will be applied in determining who is granted asylum? As it stands now, one reason for the refugees’ refusal to be registered in Hungary is the low percentage of positive decisions about their status. While in Germany more than 40% of the asylum seekers succeed in gaining asylum status, in Hungary in the past few years that number was 9%.
The establishment of “hot spots” would also mean the presence of large refugee camps in the country to house the refugees until their cases are decided and they can be moved to a community that would handle their integration. In this case, the Hungarian government’s efforts to keep refugees out of the country would have been in vain.
Yesterday it became clear that, despite Viktor Orbán’s protestations, refugees will be coming to Hungary. Moreover, although the ministers of interior of Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia voted against the plan, the fourth country of the Visegrád4–Poland, on whose support Orbán counted–voted with the majority. Thus Orbán can no longer rely on a united front by the Visegrád4 countries.
Before the summit began Viktor Orbán gave a press conference in which he emphasized certain parts of the agenda that are close to his heart. According to the press release issued by the Hungarian prime minister’s office, “the most important issue [of the] EU summit is the protection of the Greek borders.” If Athens is unable to secure them, then Europe should be allowed to step in. If Greece’s borders cannot be defended, “he must obtain support [from the EU] to enable Hungary to enforce the Schengen Agreement.” And, he added, “if they do not support us in this effort, they should state clearly that the Schengen Agreement is no longer binding, and we should then organize a corridor through which migrants may reach Austria or Germany.”
I doubt that the matter of the Greek borders will be the most important issue at the summit. Although Donald Tusk also talked about strengthening the borders, he emphasized that this by itself will not solve the problem. And defending the borders of Greece, a country that is made up of an incredible number of inhabited islands (variously cited as between 166 and 227), is well nigh impossible. More important is support for the United Nations agencies that operate refugee camps in Syria and Turkey. One reason for the recent influx of people from Syrian and Turkish refugee camps is that, in the last few months, life in the camps became very hard due to a lack of food and other necessities of life. The UN can no longer provide adequate support due to a lack of money. Donald Tusk indicated to the prime ministers that this question “can no longer wait.” The member states will have to make financial sacrifices. The goal is to collect one billion euros for the United Nations World Food Program from the 28 member states.
Viktor Orbán also has his own six-point plan of action. (1) EU countries should offer help to Greece in defending its own borders. (2) Determination of asylum status should be determined outside of the Schengen borders. (3) The European Union should draw up a list of safe countries. (4) In order to gain additional monies each member state should raise its contribution to the EU budget by 1% while they should reduce their expenses by 1%. This would produce three billion euros. (5) Certain countries should create “special partnership agreements.” For example, such a partnership could be developed between Turkey and Russia. (6) The refugees should be distributed worldwide to ease the pressure on Europe.
Whether Orbán’s plan will be discussed is hard to tell. Commentators believe that Brussels should respond to these ideas, some of which, in my opinion, deserve consideration. It’s too bad that Viktor Orbán, instead of discussing a joint problem with the rest of the European Union, decided to build a fence by which he managed to alienate everybody. It may be too late for a constructive plan from Hungary.