Hungary is not interested in moralising EU “lectures” on compulsory migrant quotas and defends its rejection of more Middle Eastern refugees on the basis that it wants nothing to do with the West’s past “failed experiments” in multiculturalism.
The country’s tough stand is a direct riposte to one of Brussel’s most senior bureaucrats who scolded Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban for erecting border fences designed to frustrate migrants transiting the country on their way to the rest of Europe.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans warned on Thursday that Central European countries have “no experience with diversity,” making them susceptible to fears about Muslim refugees. If no sustainable solution is found “you will see a surge of the extreme right across the European continent,” Timmermans said on BBC Radio 4.
Timmermans, in the BBC interview, said Central Europe must adapt to the demographic changes while singling out Hungary for special mention.
“Any society, anywhere in the world, will be diverse in the future — that’s the future of the world,” Timmermans said. “So [Central European countries] will have to get used to that. They need political leaders who have the courage to explain that to their population instead of playing into the fears as I’ve seen Mr Orbán doing in the last couple of months.”
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Orban’s spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, said integration in much of Western Europe had been anything but a resounding success and Hungary, he said, felt neither the wish nor the obligation to follow suit.
“Contrary to Mr Timmerman’s vision, we can’t see into the future,” Mr Kovács said. “But we are aware of the past, and multi-culturalism in Western Europe has not been a success in our view. We want to avoid making the same mistakes ourselves.”
On Wednesday European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s plan for EU states to spread 120,000 asylum seekers across the 28-member bloc was pushed through by a qualified majority vote. In came in the teeth of eastern opposition from Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Both Hungary and Slovakia have threatened legal challenges to the ruling.
“Mr Timmermans is right that we have not had the same experience as Western Europe, where countries like Holland, Britain and France have had mass immigration as a result of their colonial legacies,” added Mr Kovács. “But we would like to deal with our problems in a way that suits us.
“And we especially don’t like it when people who have never lived in Hungary try to give us lectures on how we should cope with our own problems. Calling us racists or xenophobes is the cheapest argument. It’s used just to dodge the issues.”
According to the Telegraph, Mr Kovács comments came after Hungary’s ambassador to London, Péter Szabadhegy, claimed common cause with Britain on the issue. In a briefing to British journalists last week, he said the British public had been jamming the switchboard of Hungary’s embassy to London in support of Budapest’s controversial stance. Of the 300 phone calls, emails and letters that were reaching the embassy’s Belgravia HQ every day, 70 per cent described Hungary’s actions as “God’s gift to Europe.” The rest were mostly insults such as “heartless scum”.
Reiterating Hungary’s opposition to quotas, Mr Szabadhegy said: “We don’t think it’s the right priority. If you have a burst pipe in your house, it is like worrying which rooms the water is going into instead of fixing the pipe.”
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