Mar 14, 2016 - Zoltán Kovács

Ahead of EU Summit, Hungary declares a state of emergency in response to migration crisis

Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér announced last week that Hungary is declaring a nationwide state of emergency due to the increasing volume of mass migration on the Western Balkans route. As a result, reinforcements have been deployed to the borders to provide additional security and be on the lookout for people trying to cross illegally.

Hungary joined others on the Western Balkans migrant route, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, in declaring a state of emergency in response to an increase in illegal activities. In the case of Hungary, the measure is preemptive but is based on reports from the aforementioned neighboring countries indicating that tens of thousands of illegal migrants, many without valid identity papers, are present on their territories. The situation has grown unpredictable.

These precautionary measures employed by Hungary, the mobilization of personnel and building of necessary infrastructure would require some 7.3 billion forints (approximately 23.5 million EUR), an amount that the government has already decided to approve. Furthermore, as the government has already indicated, if signs show that the migration route is shifting to a course through Romania, Hungary is prepared to extend the border protection fence on the Romanian frontier.

Following the EU summit earlier this week, countries located on the Western Balkans route announced a complete closure of the route. Of course, that does not mean that it’s impossible to cross the border, simply that tighter controls will be put in place to clamp down on illegal crossings. Reports coming in over the past few days estimate that the number of migrants waiting to be let through at the Macedonian borders is reaching 100 thousand, so Hungary’s preemptive move to declare a state of emergency is far from frivolous.

As the situation intensifies and forecasts continue to say that the migrant influx this year could be even larger than last year’s, European leaders must not lose any time. At next week’s EU Council summit, Hungary plans to put forward its own proposals for more effective border protection, measures that would turn the largely uncontrolled migration process into a more manageable process and address the question of mandatory quotas.

Ahead of the summit, Hungary’s position remains unchanged. Gergely Gulyás, MP and vice president of the ruling Fidesz party, summarized that position using quite frank language at a press conference earlier this week.

First, the EU should not put the solution to its migration into the hands of Turkey. As Gulyás said, “good cooperation with Turkey is in the interest of all of us…At the same time, bad cooperation is not.” Gulyás also recalled that Prime Minister Orbán was the first one to declare that last week’s proposal by Turkey, in the form that it was presented, cannot be signed.

Secondly, resettlement quotas must only be voluntary. According to Gulyás, “any quota system, resettlement mechanism on a non-voluntary basis should be out of question.”

As Prime Minister Orbán has said, the EU, a strong continent of 500 million inhabitants should be able to defend itself, to provide for its own security and overcome the migrant crisis. Ahead of the next EU summit on the issue, as we and others have declared a state of emergency, our position remains unchanged, and we hope that eventually other member states will come to the same conclusion.