The EU may be a federation without borders but Hungary begs to differ. Fed up with an invasion of asylum seekers entering the country from neighbouring Serbia, Hungary has acted to stem the flow by building a fence to secure its frontier sovereignty. Cue the moral outrage from Brussels.
Hungarian authorities announced the plan Wednesday, saying the wall would run the length of the 100-mile border the country shares with Serbia. Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said Hungary could not wait for the EU to find a solution to unfettered immigration.
“The Hungarian government has instructed the interior ministry to physically close the border with Serbia,” Szijjártó told reporters as the decision was announced. He said the ministry had been ordered to “begin preparation work for a 13ft fence along the length of Hungary’s 100-mile border with Serbia.”
“Preparation work for the fence should be completed by next Wednesday. This decision does not break any international treaty; other countries have opted for the same solution.”
Kosovo citizens are by far the largest group of asylum seekers in Hungary, data from the EU’s Eurostat agency shows. Last year, Hungary received more migrants per capita than any other EU country apart from Sweden, with the number shooting up to almost 43,000 people from just 2,000 in 2012. According to official data, 95 per cent of them cross from Serbia.
So far this year, 54,000 migrants have entered Hungary, and the total this year is expected to be up to 130,000, according to János Lázár, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief of staff. They are all part of a wider Serbian diaspora that sees one quarter of the 185,000 people who applied for asylum in the EU in the first quarter of the year revealed as citizens of Kosovo, according to Eurostat.
The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks immediately took to Twitter and described Hungary’s move as “ill-advised.”
Hungary’s plan to build a fence to stop migrants is ill-advised. Focus should be on ensuring access to asylum, not impeding it
— Nils Muiznieks (@CommissionerHR) June 18, 2015
Serbia’s prime minister went even further. A “shocked” Aleksandar Vucic said the 13ft fence was “not the solution” to migrants entering Hungary from Serbia. Speaking on TV during a visit to Oslo, Mr Vucic said: “I am surprised and shocked. We will discuss this decision with our Hungarian colleagues.
“Building walls is not the solution. Serbia can’t be responsible for the situation created by the migrants, we are just a transit country. Is Serbia responsible for the crisis in Syria?” Mr Vucic said he intended to take the matter to Serbia’s partners in the EU. For its part, Hungary is not backing down.
As well as the planned fence it has erected roadside billboards warning Serbs crossing illegally “If you come to Hungary, don’t take the jobs of Hungarians!” Successive Serbian governments have been working towards their country’s EU membership since October 2005, when the negotiations with Brussels for the Stabilization and Association Agreement started. Four years later, on December 22, 2009, Serbia applied for membership to the European Union.