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Hungary Takes NY Times to School on Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Hungary’s government spokesman has laid into the New York Times for a sanctimonious op-ed rife with errors and misconceptions regarding Europe’s migrant crisis and Hungary’s role in protecting Europe’s borders.

On September 8, the New York Times Editorial Board published an opinion piece titled “Hungary Is Making Europe’s Migrant Crisis Worse,” which censured Hungary for its “inhospitable attitudes” toward migrants, while also excoriating President Trump for his “scandalous example” on immigration and dissing Britain’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union.

In his written reply to the Times’ editors, government spokesman Zoltán Kovács takes issue with the newspaper’s presumption in trying to teach Europeans how to solve their migrant crisis while continuing “to show just how much they don’t understand.”

The editors’ casual references to international law and European values may appeal to the “limousine liberal” readership of the Times, Kovács notes, but it displays an astonishing ignorance regarding Europe’s real situation. “There is no international law, no European treaty that gives Brussels the authority to decide on immigration,” he said.

“To begin, let’s get something straight about borders,” Mr. Kovács writes, since a country that is unable to protect its borders “is no country at all.”

“The Orbán Government has built a fence on the southern border of Hungary because it’s an external border of the European Union’s Schengen Area,” Kovács adds.

“It was not simply ‘to tighten his border,’ as they say, but to defend Europe and uphold treaty obligations, which include preventing illegal immigration into the EU. Maintaining the security and integrity of the borders of the Schengen zone, the borderless area that allows freedom of movement, is essential to the EU’s security and the workings of the internal market,” he notes.

The spokesman found particularly irksome the Times’ presumptuous attempt to lay out guidelines for European action “from the comforts of Midtown Manhattan,” and in particular the following paragraph, which he quotes in full:

it is incumbent on Europe to continue to look for humanitarian solutions, whether by helping to resolve the conflicts or ease the poverty that drive people to flee, or by making room for those who reach its shores. That effort and burden must be shared, and it must be based on international law and European values, which include tolerance, cultural diversity, protection of minorities and a rejection of xenophobia.

In point of fact, Kovács notes, proposals like Brussels’ mandatory migrant resettlement quota are making the migration crisis worse by continuing to encourage illegal migration.

Citing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, he said that Hungary contests “the policy of Brussels that wants to settle anyone in a Member State against the will of the nation states.” Only Hungary has the right to decide on who gets to live in Hungary, he added.

“Here in the real world, on the front lines of the migration crisis, an overwhelming majority of Hungarian citizens want their own government – not Brussels – to make decisions on immigration (same is true for most European citizens),” Kovács said.

“As the government responsible for the safety and security of Hungarian citizens – as well as the citizens of Europe – we will not apologize for continuing to assert our right to make our own decisions on immigration and to keep Europe’s borders strong,” he concludes.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter

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