The straight talking Hungarian premier who has worked to secure his border with a fence, said the migration crisis is “Germany’s problem” and cautioned against mass Muslim settlement strikes a lonely figure in Brussels. After two days of relentless opposition and heated meetings, he suddenly appears to have backtracked in his stanch opposition to proposed asylum quotas.
Viktor Orbán leads Hungary’s ruling right wing Fidesz party. They are members of the European People’s Party (EPP), a center-right political group in the European Parliament, to which German chancellor Angela Merkel also belongs. Their presence, however, is becoming increasing unwelcome.
Guy Verhofstadt, a left leaning Belgian in the Liberal Democrat group (who has clashed with UKIP leader Nigel Farage in the past), once again today called loudly on the EPP to throw out Orbán and his Fidesz party, simply because of his views on migration – according to Politico.
And yesterday, in a single day, Orbán was summoned to a series of tense meetings with Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz – presidents, respectively, of the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament.
Junker has previously implied Orbán is fascist, merely for being right wing, and yesterday Tusk said his comments were a betrayal of Christianity.
Juncker’s aides are thought to have plans for a Europe wide asylum seeker distribution quota in the final stages of preparation, possibly to be revealed next week. Orbán has been one of the plan’s staunchest opponents.
However, in the face of relentless opposition, Orbán suddenly appeared to soften his view on the EU imposed asylum quotas at a press conference in the evening, right after the series of meetings.
Hinting that he might in fact accept some form of the plan, Politico reports he said: “We are ready to see propositions that take away refugees from Hungary.”
Supporters of the quota system are interpreting this comment as hugely significant, as the proposed system – whereby migrants would be distributed across EU countries according to a formula based on population and wealth – might well be acceptable to Orbán. In all likelihood it would result in thousands of asylum seekers leaving Hungry, a country which has absorbed 50,000 refugees since May.
Resistance remains strong from the Eastern, so-called Visegrad group of countries – Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – as well as Spain, Portugal and Britain, but Orbán’s capitulation today is a bad sign.
However, he was also clear that he remains of the view that the German-led plans first outlined in May are a mistake for the continent and migrants overall. He warned: “any comment on quotas is interpreted as an invitation [for migrants and refugees] to come to Europe.”
Furthermore, earlier in the day, Orbán repeated something else he’s said many times before: “The problem is not a European problem, the problem is a German problem,” adding “Nobody would like to stay in Hungary so we don’t have difficulties with those who would like to stay in Hungary.”
Both Hungry and Austria have blamed Germany for the recent record breaking influx of Syrian migrants across their borders. Germany now offers asylum to any Syrian, no matter how many safe countries they pass through first and regardless of whether or not they come from a dangerous region.
Germany announced the change of policy on the 25th of August, despite the move violating the legally binding Dublin Convention of 1990 whereby migrants are required to apply for asylum in the first nation they enter – supposedly to stop them applying multiple times.
The European Commission, however, has praised Germany for breaking it’s own rules and criticised Hungry for trying to uphold them with efforts to block the migrants’ path to Germany by stopping trains and erecting fences.