The European Commission has announced that it will not fund border fences, slapping down Hungary’s request for help financing immigration control measures that the nation says protect Europe from an even larger influx of illegal immigrants.
On Thursday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán sent a letter to Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker asking for €400 million, representing half the amount that the Visegrad nation says it has spent on border protection measures which include erecting a 110-mile fence along its border with Serbia, and another with Croatia.
But a spokesman for the Commission refused the request, telling Hungary that fences are not a border control measure that Brussels is prepared to back.
“We do support border management measures at the external borders. This can be surveillance measures. It can be border control equipment… But fences, we do not finance,” Alexander Winterstein said.
— Stefan Leifert (@StefanLeifert) September 1, 2017
At a press conference on Thursday, the Hungarian prime minister’s chief of staff János Lázár said the EU should help foot the €800 bill, making the argument that Hungary “was protecting all the citizens of Europe from the flood of illegal migrants”.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the security of European citizens has been financed by Hungarian taxpayers,” he added, calling for “solidarity”.
Speaking in 2015 on Hungary’s announcement that the nation would build a wall with Serbia, EU spokesman Natasha Bertaud said the bloc “does not promote the use of fences and encourages member states to use alternative measures”.
“We have only recently taken down walls in Europe; we should not be putting them up,” she said.
According to EurActiv, the European Commission provided more than €100 million towards Bulgaria’s fence with Turkey, but officially the sum was used for cameras and other monitoring equipment and not for erecting the fence itself.
what does a EU border force do? Hold the doors open?
— Hopeisnotastrategy (@worldnoteurope) October 6, 2016
In a comment posted to the pro-EU site, Johan Stavers asserted that “a border [which] people can just walk past isn’t a border at all”, and questioned whether the Commission is staffed with “idiots or traitors”.
Branding Europe’s response to Hungary’s request “a joke”, and “ridiculous”, the incredulous message asked whether Brussels “wants to finance cameras and other equipment … so that they can watch the footage of people walking past the border from the comfort of their Commission chair.”