It took less than an hour after Viktor Orbán said that a second “more massive” fence will soon be built along the Serbian-Hungarian border for all the major newspapers in the world to report his announcement. If we can believe the Hungarian prime minister, practically everything is ready for the work to begin. This new structure, he claims, is necessary in case the present arrangement between Turkey and the European Union unravels for one reason or another. It could easily happen that 100,000 migrants would storm the existing fence, which couldn’t withstand that kind of pressure. But the one the Hungarian government is going to install will be so advanced technically that “it will be able to stop several hundreds of thousands of people at one time.”
The text of the interview that took place during the early morning show of Magyar Rádió, Hungary’s state radio, is still not available on the prime minister’s website, so I have to rely on summaries that appeared in the Hungarian media. According to them, Orbán assured his audience that “not even a bird will be able to fly into Hungary without control.” He continued: “The borders cannot be defended with flowers and stuffed animals. The borders must be defended with fences, with policemen, with soldiers, and with weapons.”
Commentators immediately questioned the need for another fence because the present one has reduced the flow considerably. And, as I noted yesterday, the few who get through leave the country at the very first opportunity. Some observers are convinced that the announcement of a second fence was designed solely to serve Orbán’s domestic political agenda. He desperately wants to make sure that the October 2 referendum is valid, and the prospect of hundreds of thousands migrants attacking the country’s border might make voters more eager to cast their votes in the referendum.
Others pointed out that fences, no matter how many there are, are never foolproof, especially if we are talking about the more than one hundred thousand people Orbán envisages. Index, in an article titled “One fence is no fence but sometimes not even three are enough,” told the story of the fences at Melilla, a Spanish autonomous city located on the north coast of Africa, sharing a border with Morocco. A migrant must first climb a six-meter fence, then a three-meter one, followed by another six-meter one. A daunting but not impossible task. From the thousands who storm the triple fence a not insignificant number succeed. See the video. In 2014 February about 200 managed to enter the town of Melilla. In 2015, 50 people made it.
László Toroczkai, the Jobbik mayor of the border village of Ásotthalom, who himself organized irregular volunteers who went to hunt for refugees, is naturally quite pleased with the announcement. He believes that the new fence will be 2.0-2.5 meters from the existing one and that it can easily be patrolled, especially since thermographic cameras are already installed along the border. On the other hand, engineers are convinced that only a reinforced concrete wall could withstand the pressure exerted by crowds of that size. Experts questioned by Népszabadság could think only of the Berlin Wall as something allegedly foolproof, but even that couldn’t withstand a crowd of one hundred thousand.
The government has kept plans for this new structure a secret from the parliamentary committee dealing with defense and police matters, according to Ágnes Vadai, DK member of the committee. She said that members of the committee should have been notified if there is a danger of the arrival of a hundred thousand people, but no such information reached the committee. In her opinion, there is a very good possibility that this particular issue will never get before the committee because Hungary has been under a nationwide state of emergency ever since March and therefore the law governing public procurement has been suspended.
Months ago Magyar Nemzet asked the prime minister’s office for a detailed list of expenses in connection with building the fence along the Serbian-Hungarian and Croatian-Hungarian borders. What they got the other day was difficult to decipher, mostly because the details were sketchy and sloppy. The documents do suggest, however, that approximately 12.6 billion forints ($45.7 million) have been spent so far. If Orbán actually carries out his announced plan to build a more massive fence or wall, the cost will rise sharply. It is an enormous waste of money.
The Hungarian government likes to parade as the defender of Christian Europe from the Muslim hordes, but the fact is that Hungary’s fences haven’t deterred refugees from entering the territory of the European Union. If they can’t enter through Hungary, they will find some other route. Surely, a fence or a wall a few hundred kilometers in length will not solve the problem. Countries that act individually to protect their own borders only force other countries to pick up the slack. Unfortunately, Viktor Orbán refuses to endorse any common policy to resolve this serious human and political crisis. If it depended on him (and if so much money weren’t at stake in the form of EU subsidies), he would abolish the institution of the European Commission and would place all the power in the hands of the 28 leaders of the individual member states. That would, of course, be the death of the idea of a United Europe.