Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said that unless Hungary is allowed to secure its southern borders the whole Schengen agreement could fall apart.
Speaking to a press conference at the Hungarian embassy in Vienna, he told reporters that if Hungary cannot protect its borders then 10,000 people per day could cross over the coming months, with up to 250,000 eventually arriving in Austria and Germany, Magyar Hirlap reports.
Orban said that Hungary “enjoys the benefits” of being in the Schengen area, but those benefits also come with responsibilities. Building the border fence is one of those responsibilities, he said.
He added that it was “not a good feeling” to have to build the fence and that Hungarian border police were trying to protect the frontier in the “most humane way possible”.
Orban had been in Vienna to meet with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann to agree a response to the growing migrant crisis. Austria had initially been critical of Hungary’s border fence, but has now been forced to introduce border controls itself after being overwhelmed by an unprecedented influx of migrants.
Under the Schengen agreement, EU member states removed all border controls, allowing people to travel freely across the continent. However, as the number of migrants continues rising, many members have now taken advantage of a get-out clause allowing them to temporarily reinstate controls in the event of an emergency.
Austria, Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands now have some sort of controls along the border with their EU neighbours. Orban warns that unless he is allowed to stop migrants entering his country from non-Schengen states to the south, the whole agreement may have to be suspended.
Earlier this week, Hungary joined several other eastern European states in rejecting mandatory quotas for migrants. The country’s stance led to French President François Hollande to issue a stark warning, telling it to either fall in line or leave the EU.