Viktor Orbán’s solution to the refugee crisis didn’t find followers in Brussels

I’m afraid this is one of those posts that may be outdated/irrelevant as soon as I hit the “publish” button since it deals with an ongoing event–the “mini-summit” of the leaders of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia. It was President Jean-Claude Juncker of the European Commission who invited the participants, but apparently the idea of a gathering of those who are directly affected by the refugee crisis came from Chancellor Angela Merkel. It is also suspected that this extraordinary meeting is taking place under the aegis of the European Commission because Juncker and Merkel, who see eye to eye on the refugee issue, would like to avoid a full-fledged summit under the presidency of Donald Tusk. As the former prime minister of Poland, Tusk seems to be sympathetic to the hard-line East European position spearheaded by Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. In fact, eurobserver.com noted a “widening gap” developing between Juncker and Tusk. Or, as a European People’s Party MEP told a journalist from a Madrid online news site, “we have a Tusk problem.” Some of Tusk’s fellow EPP members think that he is “too floppy” and therefore the European Council under his presidency doesn’t work well. “We have a real problem in decision-making.” He was a great Polish prime minister, but “he is not an export product.”

Most commentators agree that today’s gathering is an attempt by Juncker and Merkel to put pressure on the states along the refugee route through the Balkans. In the last few days Juncker repeatedly called attention to the urgency of the situation given the inclement weather conditions and the incredible pressure put on Croatia and Slovenia because of Hungary’s closing of its borders toward Serbia and Croatia. As it stands now, the number of migrants who enter Hungary daily is around 20. Currently Hungary has 605 asylum seekers in a couple of refugee camps. On the other hand, Slovenia, which has a population of two million, receives over 10,000 asylum seekers a day. As the country’s prime minister pointed out, the influx of that many people into his small country is as if one million migrants arrived in Germany every day.

Hungary’s example of closing the borders seemed attractive to some of the other East European countries along the refugee route. The exception is Serbia, whose prime minister has repeatedly declared that Serbia will not build fences or walls. Serbia’s ardent desire to belong to the European Union one day most likely has something to do with the unusually cooperative attitude of its political leadership. Those who are already members of the European Union are a great deal less cooperative.

Juncker went to the meeting with the firm resolve to take immediate and effective steps toward launching a cooperative, joint venture that would regulate the currently totally chaotic situation. Juncker, unlike Viktor Orbán, is thinking “not about short-term popularity but about substance,” as he told the Funke Media Group. The inflow of refugees is a greater emergency than the recent Greek financial crisis. The European Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans called it an “existential crisis.” And he continued: “What was unimaginable before now becomes imaginable: the disintegration of the European project.” Timmermans didn’t name the countries who “lost track of what we share or the common destiny we should be building.” Instead, he noted, “we are looking especially at the differences between us.” He also called for a “return to values.”

Someone has a good sense of Europe. The organizers placed Orbán right next to Merkel

Someone has a good sense of humor. The organizers placed Orbán right next to Merkel.

According to reports, Juncker presented the prime ministers with a 16-point proposal that would require their immediate attention. First, the Commission wants the affected countries “to commit to refrain from facilitating the movement of refugees or migrants to the border of another country of the region without the agreement of that country.” The proposal also reconfirmed the principle that “a country may refuse entry to third-country nationals who, when presenting themselves at border crossing points, do not confirm a wish to apply for international protection.” The document includes a proposal to set up a new operation under the management of the EU’s border control agency Frontex at the Greek, Macedonian, and Albanian borders in order “to focus on existing checks but also the registration of refugees and migrants who have not yet registered in Greece.” There will be a discussion of the deployment “by Wednesday of 400 border guards and essential equipment through the activation by Slovenia of the Rapid Border Intervention Team mechanism.” In non-EU jargon this simply means that, under urgent migratory pressure, border guards on a European level could be used for the control and surveillance of internal borders.

In addition, each prime minister must nominate an official within 24 hours to be in charge of information exchange and coordination. Each country must promise to increase its capacity to provide shelter to the asylum seekers. Weekly the European Commission will check whether the countries are fulfilling their promised obligations. Angela Merkel, before the meeting, told reporters that “we all are obliged to follow the Geneva refugee convention and that’s why we need to talk today about improving the situation of refugees.” Of course, this is a reminder to Viktor Orbán that he cannot block asylum seekers from entering the country and applying for asylum. Moreover, the 16-point proposal also emphasized the humane treatment of the refugees.

Finally, each country’s government must get in touch with “international financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Development Bank of the Council of Europe, which are ready to support these efforts financially.”

What will Viktor Orbán’s reaction be to these proposals? Unless Juncker and Merkel have something up their sleeves, more of the same. Orbán’s words prior to the meeting were not encouraging. Here is the exchange between the prime minister and reporters.

Orbán Viktor: Is there any question? [laughter] No? [laughter]

Press: Yes, why are you here?

Orbán: Why am I here? It’s a good question, because…

Press: You are not on the route…

Orbán: Exactly, Hungary is not on the route anymore, so we are just observer here. But if we can help on this working meeting our neighbours with any good experiences, I’m ready to do that. But we are just simply observers.

Press: What would you say?

Orbán: How to keep the international regulations we have. So the number one source of the crisis is that the members of the European Union, especially those who are member of Schengen treaty, are not able or are not ready to keep their words. So we still have international agreements, everybody should keep it. So I hope this afternoon we will put an end to the open border policy, which is totally against Schengen treaty, we will put an end to the invitation policy, which is against the international agreement of Schengen. And everybody will say, who are member of the Schengen treaty, that we are ready to keep our words in the future. That’s just an opinion from an observer, anyway. [laughter]

This is not a translation. The exchange was conducted in English.

As for his solution to the crisis: “I hope that this afternoon we can put an end to the policy of open borders and the policy of invitation [of the migrants to Germany].” He is ready to share Hungary’s “positive experiences” with the participants in the meeting. The “positive experience” is most likely the result of erecting miles and miles of fences. After all, “the fence is close to ideal.” While he was at it, Orbán lashed out at Merkel, whom he blamed for Hungary’s problem caused by the inordinate number of migrants stuck in the country. He added, however, that in the final analysis Hungary can be grateful to Merkel because the crisis situation that developed in Hungary prompted the government to build a fence which saved Hungary from the onslaught of migrants.

Orbán is normally much braver outside of conference rooms than inside, so let’s hope that he was/will be less belligerent. We don’t know details of the meeting yet, but it seems that “nobody listened to us,” meaning Viktor Orbán. That means in my interpretation that even those countries that threatened not to cooperate and possibly to follow Hungary’s example decided to play ball with the politicians in Brussels and Germany. If I’m correct, I wonder how Orbán will sell this defeat to his people.

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Istvan
Guest
I think this short interview with Peter Kreko adds an aspect to Eva’s interesting essay. Kreko argues that many people beyond Hungary are in fact listening to PM Orban and like what he has said and is doing. It appears in: The Global Refugee Crisis – From Economics to Climate Change In Foreign Affairs Unedited, October 13, 2015 https://www.foreignaffairs.com/audios/2015-10-13/global-refugee-crisis-economics-climate-change Brian O’Connor, Deputy Web Editor at Foreign Affairs, sits down with Peter Kreko, director of the political capital institute in Budapest. They discuss how Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has used the refugee crisis to his advantage—both at home and in Europe more broadly. O’CONNOR: Orbán was raising questions about migration far before the international attention turned to Hungary itself. Is there a sense within Hungary that he might have been onto something? KREKO: What we can see is that right now the domestic political debate returned into the scheme that is quite comfortable for the government, and this is about that the government is fighting for national Hungarian interests, defending Hungarian people from an external enemy, and the Western opposition and the European elite and the bureaucrats in the Western elite is just hypocritically, liberally, politically correctly trying to solve… Read more »
qaz
Guest

“Nul n’a le privilège de toujours se tromper” (Voltaire)
In English: “No one has the privilege of always being wrong/mistaken”

One may object to Mr. Orban’s ways of governing Hungary, but his stance on migration is not necessarily misguided, irrespective of whether it may be only clever political maneuvering.

There is of course a humanitarian crisis resulting from the destruction of the fragile equilibrium in the Middle East, which the West contributed in creating. As human beings, we have a duty to address this humanitarian crisis to the best of our abilities with compassion and generosity. But opening our borders may not necessarily be the best solution for all stakeholders, also taking into account Europe’s Judeo-Christian heritage. Moreover, a large influx of refugees/migrants does not only affect Germany and other host countries, but all of Europe because of open borders and the freedom of establishment.

So in this particular case, indeed, Voltaire may be right: no one has the privilege of always being wrong.

Member

I think you should read back on previous conversations on the same subject. The “Europe’s Judeo-Christian heritage” is simply the cover for xenophobia, and Islamophobia. Many countries (Canada, USA) opened their border in the past (and present) for different cultures and their experiences are quite the opposite from those that Orban and his misguided fan club on the subject believes. Information based on facts regarding the positive outcome of integration of refugees and their contribution to society in general are highly outweigh any supposed negative effects that Orban and his anti-Muslim followers can come up with. You do not have to be a refugee to cause harm to Hungary or to any other nations. There are more people die from car accidents on each day than from terrorist attacks in a year, still we do not close down the car factories in Hungary or in Europe. Orban inadvertently stole the retirement savings of thousands, and that would highly affect the quality of life for a decade in Hungary, but he is successfully turning the crowd against the refugees who do to even want to stay in Hungary…. It is laughable.

Guest
Re: ‘But opening our borders may not necessarily be the best solution for all stakeholders, also taking into account Europe’s Judeo-Christian heritage” Right now in the absence of any solution that seems to be going on with the migrant and refugee issue in Hungary one thing that is certain is the fact that we are witnessing perhaps an interesting experiment in observing how an adamantly acknowledged Judeo-Christian state can ‘succeed’ in positively directing its way through the 21st century as it fails to subscribe to its pillars of ‘love’ and ‘charity’ towards various selective masses. And it is on that that we see how morally vacuous the country has become. On reflection it isn’t much off to say it for the most part has lost its humanity and that her stentorial and avowed ‘beliefs’ attached to the state are incompatible with her actions on the European stage. Grade: Fail. It would appear that with the rise of extremist Islam making its way globally VO can ill afford to diverge from a precept sorely lacking in the country’s attempt and effort to stem the ‘hordes’. Arguably there are pressures not only from without but within that bear watching when it comes… Read more »
petofi
Guest

Orban now, and even more so in the future, will continue to pick positions that force isolation on Hungary so that when the inevitable break with the EU comes, the people will be habituated to being left out and alone.

(The basement KGB-ers brewing Hungary’s future…)

Daniel Ezredes
Guest

The answer to ‘…how will Orban sell this defeat to his country?’ is simple. He will sell it as a victory, how he put the EU leaders who are trying to take Hungary’s freedom away in their place. Then he will emphasise that he, once again, is a freedom fighter defending Hungary.

Member

I agree Daniel, Orban always goes home and says the opposite, he is not above lying outright about it either. The problem now is that many nowadays, can read foreign media and other publications to determine the truth, however, Orban has also convinced many in Hungary, that there is a foreign media campaign against Hungary and basically tells the people not to believe it. He has convinced them also that the west hates the Hungarian people, he makes it personal.

Istvan
Guest
The 17 points approved at the conference are now out and there are several points that could and will easily be used by the Fidesz/Jobbik government to continue to block refugees from admission. The ambiguity of the document will also be able to be used by the current Hungarian government to maintain its current stance. It was far from being a total defeat for Orban even though Hungary was only an observer. see http://www.kormany.hu/en/the-prime-minister/news/hungary-is-now-purely-an-observer Among the interesting points are #14 which reads: “We reconfirm the principle that a country may refuse entry to third country nationals who, when presenting themselves at border crossing points, do not confirm a wish to apply for international protection (in line with international and EU refugee law, subject to a prior non- refoulement and proportionality check).” I think its more than fair to say that how the Hungarian national police and border control authorities will understand this point and that is you ask the refugee first are you planning on seeking asylum in Hungary? If the answer is, no I plan on going to Germany then you are denied entry to Hungary. Another interesting point is #3 which reads: “Under the current circumstances, we will… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

At any rate Eva, given the language of the document it would appear the Hungarian government will be compelled to do very little. I do not see the 17 points as being confrontational towards the stance of Hungary.

Webber
Guest

Here is a video of a refugee who tells the camera why she wants to go to Germany:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2015/oct/26/10-year-old-syrian-girl-explains-why-she-wants-to-reach-germany-video

God Bless Serbia and Croatia for letting her through.

People like her will start dying from hypothermia sooner or later.

Webber
Guest

I wish they’d invite Alissar, the girl in the video above, to their little summit as an adviser.

As to Orban: he had better get used to being just an observer because I would bet that increasingly, outside Hungary, that’s all he’s going to be.

dawg
Guest

But as they say ‘inside Hungary he is worldfamous’ (Magyarországon világhírű).

Note that Szabolcs Panyi of index.hu flatly stated today that Orban has become a determining factor in European politics.

Orban is w i n n i n g. He is a w i n n e r.

“Orbán Viktor magabiztosabbnak tűnik, mint valaha, sőt minden ellentmondásosságával együtt meghatározó tényező lett az európai politikában.”

http://index.hu/belfold/2015/10/26/vona_ideje_akkor_johet_el_ha_orban_kiszallt_jobbik_fidesz_menekultvalsag_1_resz/

Webber
Guest

Panyi knows nothing but what his Fidesz handlers tell him.

Istvan
Guest
Webber so do you think the new Polish government dominated by the Law and Justice (PiS) Party will not be a solid ally of Orban on issue of refugees within the EU? The preliminary results imply that PiS will get 232 seats in the 460-member parliament, enough for an absolute majority. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of Poland’s late president Lech Kaczynski, will most likely be PM. According to my Polish friends here in Chicago Kaczynski, is a long-time fan of Viktor Orban, and has said Muslim migrants threaten Poland’s Catholic way of life. I have heard that the vote here in Chicago was overwhelmingly in favor of PiS, but that is only a rumor. There were six different polling stations around the city for that election, due to the fact that Chicago has a massive Polish population. I have asked them whether there would be a problem with Orban’s soft stand on the Russian intervention in the Ukraine and the PiS hard line on the Russians. They seem to think Kaczynski will try to push Hungary back firmly into the NATO camp and adopt a less Putin friendly perspective. I do not understand enough about the Polish situation to… Read more »
Webber
Guest
Istvan – Kaczynski will not be Poland’s leader. Poland’s new Prime Minister is called Beata Szydlo (that’s the crossed l pr. w – so Sheedwo). She is an unknown quality. We’ll have to wait and see. For sure, there are a lot of parallels between Kaczynski’s ideology and Fidesz’s and there is plenty of room for cooperation, and yet…. There are also some major differences, namely: 1. Kaczynski’s party when last in power did not demolish its opposition, and left power without histrionics when it lost elections to that opposition. 2. Kaczynski, though party leader, does not want to run the country, and handed that job to a qualified woman (not like Orban, is it?) 3. Kaczynski’s party is Polish traditional anti-German, but not anti-Western (very unlike Orban’s Fidesz). 4. Kaczynski seems to personally hate Putin’s Russia more than any other Polish politician, with the possible exception of Sikorski. Because Orban’s friendship with Putin is so well known in Poland, Orban was considered toxic by the Polish right. Orban is regularly depicted as Putin’s puppet in the Polish press. Literally nobody wanted to be associated with Orban’s Hungary in this election. Orban’s “friends” in Europe are only tactical ones, such… Read more »
Webber
Guest

P.S. One of the most depressing things about Hungarian state t.v. these days is the foreign news coverage. Reporters treat Pegida demonstrations of a few thousand people in Germany as if this were proof that all Germans backed Orban. The Hun. govt. is now openly – through it’s own media – backing the extreme right throughout Europe, and rooting for it while also hinting to Hungarians that these parties are on the verge of winning elections everywhere.
It’s the most foul wishful thinking I’ve ever witnessed.

tavaris pripadavatel
Guest

Very important points. There’s a real belief even in the more independent media that Orban “is winning”, that the EU “has accepted Orban’s ideas”. Clearly those journalists which are not corrupt are at owe of the dear leaders political genius. They can’t help themselves, they are completely star struck. It’s weird – but it feels great to have “access” to direct underlings of the dear leader.

The Hungarian government does indeed – in line with Russia’s official strategy – support the extreme right parties and ideologies of Europe.

The point for Orban and his media is not just to show to the average folks that Orban – through his “genius” – has predicted the demise of the European liberal consensus but more importantly it is actually to bring about the end of the pro-EU, European centrist consensus.

This is Orban’s strategic goal – again, let’s repeat in line with Moscow’s efforts – and his corrupt party chums at the EU People’s Party and at CSU are assisting him in that (of course Germans are pretty pro-Russian to begin with).

Guest

Germans, especially but not only Mrs Merkel are surely NOT pro-Russian!

Nobody here likes Putin – except maybe the Left party (i e the Communists, Stalinists) and ex chancellor Schröder (who was paid by Putin’s Gazprom and is non compos mentis, senile in the eyes of most people)!

And the right wingers in the CSU, starting with Seehofer, are the laughing stock of everybody – incl their CDU friends.

Istvan
Guest
My Polish friends are now arguing on line that the next Polish PM will be Beata Szydło as Webber indicates and that Jarosław Kaczyński will be the power behind the throne. Some are posting comments on chat lists that Szydło was just a campaign tactic and will be told to step down for the party leader after a brief stint in office. One Polish liberal socialist here in Chicago calls the victory of PiS “Orbanization on the Vistula.” In general what I have seen written and heard from Poles here in Chicago is that they view Orban’s pro- Putin orientation is driven in part by the EU’s overly liberal policies and in part by his fears of the USA. The political Poles here I would say are in their majority completely uncritical of our nation and see the USA as the only hope for the world against Russia. It is also commonly believed here among political Poles that the Russians murdered Lech Kaczyński, then president of Poland who was Jarosław’s twin brother, whose plane crashed in Russia. So there is a depth of anti-Russian sentiment in that community, but it seems to me that the PiS and Orban will agree… Read more »
Actor
Guest

OT: re TV2

Are there lawyers here? What can one make of this article?

http://nol.hu/belfold/a-nemetek-is-beintettek-simicskaeknak-1571423

I always thought that if an asset is burdened by a mortgage then the asset is still freely transferable but it will remain to be burdened by the encumbrance. Thus if Simicska wanted to obtain shares from Ms. Dederick and Mr. Simon burdened by a mortgage he could do so and he didn’t need the consent of the person whose mortgage the assets are burdened with (ProsiebenSat1).

Plus, the Hungarian court of registration seems to have requested data from Fonyó (Simicska) which to me don’t seem to be on the exhaustive list which may be required pursuant to Annex 2 to Act V of 2006.

Interesting legal actions.

Minusio
Guest
One can also put a slightly different spin on the refugee drama. First of all, Europe is suffering from the fall-out of the US having destabilised the Near and Middle East in the past decades. But the US is hardly participating in sheltering refugees. And why doesn’t anyone get a handle on the rich Gulf states to help Lebanon and Jordania? Everybody criticized the EU for not doing anything about the crisis. As far as I know, the EU can only become active if it is asked. So the sentence “… the idea of a gathering of those who are directly affected by the refugee crisis came from Chancellor Angela Merkel” takes on quite a different meaning. As usual, she took too little action too late. This is her style of governing. Now it’s coming home to roost. Many complain about the missing solidarity of the EU member countries. Who destroyed the solidarity? Merkel (long before the problems with Greece). And the EPP has prevented the EU from sanctioning Orbán. As far as they are concerned, he can get away with murder. Merkel’s CDU is a member of EPP. Another sign of Merkel’s benign neglect of Europe is that she… Read more »
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