Hungary was not an observer at the mini-summit. Orbán signed on the dotted line

Well, the emergency mini-summit is over. It was convened to take the first practical steps toward regulating and slowing the migrant flow from Turkey to Greece and from there to Germany and beyond. Hungary was one of the countries that were invited to discuss and approve a 17-point plan prepared by the staffs of Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, and Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany.

We know from a press release of the European Commission that the leaders who gathered at the mini-summit “agreed on [the] 17-point plan of action” they had received ahead of time. The press release explicitly states that “today, leaders representing Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia met in Brussels at the Commission’s Berlaymont Headquarters and agreed to improve cooperation and step up consultation between the countries along the route and decided on pragmatic operational measures that can be implemented as of tomorrow to tackle the refugee crisis in the region.”

Yes, you read it right. Viktor Orbán, prime minister of Hungary, who only a few hours earlier announced that he was there only as an observer, agreed to the terms of the document. Yesterday I quoted his humorous exchange with foreign journalists about his so-called observer status, but in fact Orbán was there as the prime minister of a country very much involved in the refugee crisis, not as an observer. According to the Hungarian media, however, Orbán refused to take part in the discussions and declined Juncker’s invitation to express his opinion on matters under discussion. Yet he signed.

It is hard to tell whether Orbán’s decision to act as if he were merely an onlooker was decided way before the meeting or whether it was a sudden inspiration prompted by the question from an unnamed journalist: “Why are you here?” To which Orbán’s first response was “It’s a good question…” In any case, the first session of the meeting ended sometime around 6:00 p.m., and two and a half hours later the following announcement was posted on the prime minister’s office website:

The Western Balkans migration route no longer directly affects Hungary, and it is therefore now attending the summit on this purely as an observer, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said upon arriving at the meeting on Sunday.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the number one reason for the crisis is that some countries in the European Union and the Schengen Area are unable or unwilling to keep their word. Mr. Orbán further said that he had suggested on several occasions that if Greece is unable to protect its borders, the European Union should do so in a joint effort, “but no one listened to us.”

Since then MTI reported only one relevant sentence about the fact that the Hungarian government wants, it seems, to keep secret as long as possible: that Hungary, the so-called observer, signed the agreement and within 24 hours will have to move into high gear. This MTI report, which appeared right after the marathon meeting ended at 1:06 a.m., carried the headline “Migration Summit–Merkel: The migration crisis is one of Europe’s greatest trials.” The short summary of what Merkel and Juncker had to say after the meeting was followed by this sentence: “At the summit the participating countries accepted a 17-point action plan in the interest of handling the migrant crisis.” An hour later there was a much longer and more detailed summary of the outcome of the meeting, but the fact that all countries present signed the agreement again received only one sentence, this time hidden in the middle of a longish text.

What followed is also interesting. This morning at 10:00 the prime minister’s office told MTI that “Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made clear at the summit of the Western Balkan leaders held in Brussels on Sunday that Hungary is ready to assist the states that lie along the migrant route with equipment and technical devices.” Bertalan Havasi, head of the press department, repeated that Hungary, in accord with the decision of the summit, will nominate a coordinator who will be in touch with countries affected by the migrant crisis. He emphasized, however, that Viktor Orbán stated at the summit that Hungary will keep the so-called green border closed. Hungary will accept only those asylum seekers who are entitled to cross the Schengen borders according to EU rules.

So, this seems to be the latest communication trick. Orbán Viktor was there only as an observer and the country will only assist with technical devices, whatever this means. But let’s look at the agreement that Viktor Orbán signed, according to the press release of the European Commission. My question is how Hungary can possibly restrict its participation to technical advice and devices on the basis of this document.

leaders meeting

Leaders’ Statement

 At the invitation of the President of the European Commission, the Heads of State or Government of Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia, in the presence of the President of the European Parliament, the President of the European Council, the current and incoming Presidencies of the Council of the EU as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), agreed the following statement:

“The unprecedented flow of refugees and migrants along the Eastern Mediterranean-Western Balkans route is a challenge that will not be solved through national actions alone. Only a determined, collective cross-border approach in a European spirit, based on solidarity, responsibility, and pragmatic cooperation between national, regional and local authorities can succeed. Unilateral action may trigger a chain reaction. Countries affected should therefore talk to each other. Neighbours should work together along the route, as well as upstream with countries such as Turkey, as host to the largest number of refugees. This is the only way to restore stability to the management of migration in the region, ease the pressure on the over-stretched capacity of the countries most affected, and to slow down the flows.

All countries have responsibilities and obligations under international law, in particular the Geneva Convention, and EU Member States have to fully respect EU law. Refugees need to be treated in a humane manner along the length of the Western Balkans route to avoid a humanitarian tragedy in Europe. Migrants who are not in need of international protection should be swiftly returned to their countries of origin.

We welcome the readiness of the European Commission, the UNHCR, Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), in accordance with their respective mandates, to support us in the swift implementation of the following operational measures as of Monday:

Permanent exchange of information and effective cooperation

1/ We will nominate contact points reporting directly to us to facilitate the exchange of information and coordination; we will nominate these contact points within 24 hours to allow daily exchanges and coordination to begin immediately to achieve the gradual, controlled and orderly movement of persons along the Western Balkans route;
2/ We will work with the European Commission to make use of all tools available at European and international level, including financial assistance, based on joint needs assessments to be launched within 24 hours; immediate efforts should be focused on the provision of temporary shelter and support for all arrivals as well as on organising swift and effective returns of migrants not in need of international protection.

Limiting Secondary Movements

3/ Under the current circumstances, we will discourage the movement of refugees or migrants to the border of another country of the region. A policy of waving through refugees without informing a neighbouring country is not acceptable. This should apply to all countries along the route.

Supporting refugees and providing shelter and rest 

4/ We commit to increasing the capacity of our countries to provide temporary shelter, rest, food, health, water and sanitation to all in need. Where these fall short, we commit to make our needs clear to the European Commission and, where appropriate, to trigger the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Sufficient temporary accommodation should then be ensured along the Western Balkans route. We commit to immediately exchange information about our capacity to provide shelter to ensure its optimal shared and coordinated use, where requested;

5/ We welcome Greece’s intention to increase reception capacity to 30.000 places by the end of the year and commit to supporting Greece and UNHCR to provide rent subsidies and host family programmes for at least 20.000 more. Financial support for Greece and the UNHCR is expected. This is an important precondition to make the emergency relocation system work;

6/ We will work with the UNHCR who has committed to support our efforts in improving our capacities. An additional capacity of 50.000 would allow for a better and more predictable management of the flow. We request that the UNHCR support be strengthened immediately in particular as regards reception capacity and the provision of humanitarian support. We will work with EASO on an exchange of information in this regard;

7/ We will engage in immediate operational contacts 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 financially efforts to provide shelter of the countries willing to make use of these resources. We commit to engaging with these International Financial Institutions to act in a coordinated manner. We welcome the readiness of the European Commission to call a coordination meeting with these International Financial Institutions within a week.

Managing the migration flows together 

8/ We will ensure a full capacity to register arrivals, with maximum use of biometric data, notably fingerprints; this is vital in particular at the point of first entry into the EU. Registration does not replace the obligation for EU Member States of mandatory registration in line with the common European asylum system rules;

9/ We will immediately exchange information via the contact points on the size and movement of flows through our countries, in particular the number of refugees and migrants belonging to vulnerable groups, and where requested on all arriving refugees and migrants on our territories;

10/ We will work with EU agencies in particular Frontex and EASO to swiftly put in place this exchange of information; these EU agencies are invited to provide technical assistance in this endeavour and to advise on the information to be exchanged and on the frequency of exchanges;

11/ We commit to step up our national and coordinated efforts to swiftly return migrants not in need of international protection in full respect of their dignity and human rights. This is vital in particular at the point of first entry into the EU. Frontex and EASO are invited to provide technical assistance;

12/ We will work with the European Commission and Frontex to step up practical cooperation on readmission with third countries; cooperation will be intensified with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, in particular in the area of returns. We call for full implementation of the existing readmission agreements. We invite the European Commission to start working on readmission agreements with relevant countries with which such agreements are not yet in place.

Border Management 

13/ We commit to immediately increase our efforts to manage and regain control of our borders and increase the coordination of our actions relating to border management. This will include our strong support to the following measures to be decided and agreed in the relevant institutions and in accordance with the relevant procedures:

  • Working closely with Turkey to finalise and implement the EU-Turkey Action Plan;
  • Making full use of the potential of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement and the visa liberalisation roadmap;
  • Upscaling the Poseidon Sea Joint Operation in Greece, in particular Frontex’s presence in the Aegean Sea, and strengthening significantly Frontex support to Greece in registering and fingerprinting activities;
  • Reinforcing Frontex support at the border between Bulgaria and Turkey;
  • Immediate bilateral border-related confidence-building measures, in particular the strengthening of border cooperation, between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia;
  • Greece, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania will strengthen the management of the external land border. Frontex should assist Greece in the registration of refugees and migrants who have not yet been registered in the country;
  • Increased UNHCR engagement at the border between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia;
  • Working together with Frontex to monitor border crossings and support registration at Croatian-Serbian border crossing points;
  • Strengthening the Frontex Western Balkans Risk Analysis Network with intensified reporting from all participants;
  • The deployment in Slovenia within a week of 400 police officers and essential equipment through bilateral support;

Where appropriate, countries will make use of the Rapid Border Intervention Team (RABIT) mechanism, which should be duly equipped;

14/ 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).

Tackling smuggling and trafficking 

15/ We commit to enhance police and judicial cooperation and to step up actions against migrant smuggling and trafficking of human beings. We call on Europol, Frontex and Interpol to support Western Balkans route-wide operations to combat people smuggling.

Information on the rights and obligations of refugees and migrants 

16/ In order to discourage perilous journeys and recourse to smugglers, we commit to make use of all available communication tools to inform refugees and migrants about existing rules, as well as about their rights and obligations, notably on the consequences of a refusal to be registered, fingerprinted and of a refusal to seek protection where they are. We call on the UNHCR to support national authorities in this regard.


17/ We invite the European Commission to monitor the implementation of these commitments on a weekly basis, in coordination with the national contact points.”

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October 26, 2015 6:47 pm

He lies like a rug.

And the hapless, Hungarian citizenry mind not at all that their representative, their leader, (their King-to-be!) lies before the whole world.


Where does one order a scintilla of self-respect: just a small teaspoon for the whole nation.

It’s more than the country has right now…

October 26, 2015 11:07 pm

Orban lied? Who would of thought? I am in shock! What a surprise! NOT

„Disregard what I say” during the campaign, Orbán Viktor said before the 2006 elections, according to 2 diplomatic cables of the American Embassy. According to the documents published by Wikileaks, Orbán referred to the fact that his electoral promises – judged to be „populist” by American diplomats – would not necessarily coincide with the actual plans of his party.

„This isn’t complicated – to the people we say that we would restore the greatness of the nation, and to the economic players what they can expect from the Fidesz government” – Viktor Orbán declared to the American Embassy according to a cable from April 2008, as published by Wikileaks. The „confidential” document signed by the then Ambassador April H. Foley contained a longer analysis about Fidesz, celebrating its 20th birthday in those days. ”

October 27, 2015 4:53 am

Since he probably agreed with all the points he signed the agreement. At the same time after erecting the fence he felt like an observer among the other guys who are still struggling with the huge inflow of refugees. I can reconcile it this way.

October 27, 2015 6:31 am

London Calling!

Signing is one thing – delivering another.

It is very likely, to my mind, that Juncker and Merkel stroked Orban’s ego – and did indeed invite him along as an observer.

This would explain the positioning of him in that ‘sense of humour’ picture, next to Merkel. A natural position for an ‘observer’.

Psychologically, Orban was out of the desicion-making, cleverly sidelined, unable to make trouble – “No one listened to us” (Me!).

At the final plenary Orban had to make a decision – psychologically isolated he ‘magnanimously’ signed. Orban must be feeling that he must come back in from the cold – and mitigate any sanctions coming his way.

I don’t give much credit to the Euro-Duo but if this is how it occurred, it was cleverly done – but I doubt it was planned.

Orban has plenty of time now to prevaricate and obfuscate to his population about what he actually signed – and do as little as possible through inertia.

I would finally add: I believe Martin Schulz instead of Jean-Claude Juncker would have been much more dynamic. Schulz has a history of no-nonsense leadership, having put Orban in his place a few times.



October 27, 2015 9:16 am

CharlieH (October 27, 2015 at 6:31 am):

“It is very likely, to my mind, that Juncker and Merkel stroked Orban’s ego – and did indeed invite him along as an observer.”

Inviting Orban as an observer in a meeting of his peers would be a major diplomatic snub. I don’t believe it.

October 27, 2015 7:19 am
I do not want to appear to be an apologist for PM Orban, but Eva’s essay while pointing out the fact that Hungary was formally more than an observer does not indicate what if any implications that has for Hungary. As I indicated yesterday the 17 point document is written ambiguously and it is even unclear if the operating assumption was every participant in the conference was by their very presence effectively declared to be a nation State on the “Western Balkans route.” Clearly that particular phrasing means something, but what is unclear. Serbia is an official candidate for EU membership but was at the conference and clearly EU decisions are not yet fully binding on it, similarly “the Sun, too, is a star” Macedonia is a candidate, as is Albania. It is intellectually absurd to believe that Macedonia which has one of the most corrupt police forces in the world will in any way be able to control “migrant smuggling and trafficking of human beings” as required by point 15. The EU continues to produce document after document that is written to create a consensus based on unenforceable conditions. To put it simply the EU is a mess. If… Read more »
October 27, 2015 8:41 am


“There is a difference between what a document is intended to mean, and what it truly means as we understand it. The Hungarian cannot be fooled: we see to the heart of things. Only WE can interpret the true meaning. Thus, it is what we say it is. And our actions, and reactions, are incontestable.”


October 27, 2015 11:42 am

“The world is not fair, and often fools, cowards, liars and the selfish hide in high places.”
Bryant H. McGill American Author

“Pathological liars can’t always tell truth from falsehood and contradict themselves in an interview. They are manipulative and they admit they prey on people. They are very brazen in terms of their manner, but very cool when talking about this.”
Adrian Raine

October 27, 2015 12:58 pm
It is easy to let things get out of focus. Mr. Orban likes to project himself as the Leader and the Voice of the Hungarian people, Head of a Sovereign State within the EU. And he is. But with a national population less than many large cities – even within the EU – he is not the equal of a Merkel, of an Hollande or an Obama, strut and pose as he might. More appropriate he is an irritant in the backside of the EU for apparently it is his chosen policy to take everything that he possibly can squeeze out of Brussels (“it is “ours” by right”) and it never seems to cross his mind that he might give back, that he might contribute to the formidable task of building and strengthening this Union of Europe. Typical is the government’s trick that can be seen everywhere outside construction sites in Budapest and Hungary generally – “financed by the European Union and the Government of Hungary”, and the total amount of the project, but NEVER is the contribution of each party set out… I never have understood why the EU does not insist on it. Lies, half lies and Fidesz… Read more »
October 27, 2015 1:03 pm
OT: I went to my hairdresser I’ve been frequenting for over a decade now. He is a decent, likeable guy, a family man, who also happens to be a member of Hit Gyülekezete, the Evangelical Christian church that happens to own ATV, the only independent Hungarian TV station. He has an independent profession, he constantly thinks about new ventures, he doesn’t even think about relying on the state, he cares about the future of his kids, he is very much part of his community. In a sense he’s a model citizen of a liberal democracy. It’s worth noting that Hit Gyülekezete used to be aligned with SZDSZ in the early nineties (probably because SZDSZ criticized the dominance and preferred status of the Catholic Church, and because of the then-anticommunism of SZDSZ). It’s an important political constituency. The church controls a block of a few hundred thousand uniform voters, mostly in Budapest and Pest county. Now, to my (partial) surprise my hairdresser ended up in a rant about how Orban is the only European leaders who dares to protect the Christians and Jews from the Muslim hordes who are ready to take over Europe and plant their sleeper terrorists among us.… Read more »
October 27, 2015 1:57 pm

Re: ‘Hungaricum’..

The poster language perhaps now for a mendaciousness that is both subtle and ‘in-your-face’ depending on the publics the communicated language is expected to reach. One public picks up the trap doors within the ‘meanings’ the others well they drop hook line and sinker from the stream into the government’s mouth. Those are like delicious chum to VO.

October 27, 2015 4:05 pm

There was a time not long ago when Austrians came to Hungary by cars to bring refugees to Austria. Now they consider building fences(?) instead to regulate the inflow of refugees: . Times are changing fast.

October 27, 2015 4:27 pm

From the article it’s clear:

They want an orderly movement of the refugees into Austria, so they can “process” them (what an ugly word), check where they are from, give them papers etc …
They don’t want to keep them out of the country or send them back as Hungary wanted to do!

October 27, 2015 5:41 pm

Ákos Kertész — (revoked) Kossuth-prize-winning Hungarian writer who fled Hungary as a refugee a few of years ago and was granted asylum in Canada — recites verses (in Hungarian) at Ottawa Hungarian Forum commemoration of the 1956 uprising. (Needless to say, this was not a Fidesz-sponsored event or group). Location on video: 3:36 – 18:51).

October 28, 2015 2:06 pm

Re: Akos Kertesz

Steven..Koszonom szepen…If I was nearby I would have attended the remembrance. Unfortunately today writers and writing are both having a tenuous existence within undemocratic states and those that fear the possible effects of powerful sentences. But some keep plugging away because of their stubborn integrity and by that make themselves ‘dangerous’.

October 28, 2015 6:49 am

Orban, being a liar and a cheat, has no intention of complying with what he signed, or said for that matter. As usual.
I am sure he would have preferred not to sign in order to brag at home (kuruckodás), but put under some pressure, he buckled. He will surely renege on this later.