Oct 02, 2017 - Zoltán Kovács

Hungary’s southern border fence has been protecting the frontier of Europe for two years

For two years now, Hungary’s border fence, border patrol forces and stricter laws have dramatically reduced the number of illegal crossings on Europe’s southern border. Our commitment to strong borders is just one of the ways that Hungary fulfills its legal obligations and stands in solidarity with Europe in times of crisis.

When a pipe bursts in the house, Prime Minister Orbán once said, you don’t try to distribute the water proportionally among the rooms. You seal off its entry points. He used the analogy to illustrate the fundamental differences in Europe’s two approaches to illegal immigration.

Some may prefer to ignore it, but the fact is that without border protection, Europe would see hundreds of thousands of migrants enter the EU every year without the proper legal procedures and background checks. This constitutes a serious security concern; no responsible leadership would ignore it. We know for a fact that terrorist organizations have exploited Europe’s porous borders to move in and out of the EU.

The Hungarian example shows that ‘if there is a will, there is a way’ to control illegal immigration. That does not mean, of course, denying entry to those who merit asylum. It means reliable border security and a set of enforcement measures to make sure migrants apply correctly.

In 2015, when almost 1.5 million people crossed Europe’s borders illegally, these two proposals were put on the table as ways of stopping the “leak.”

In the September meeting of the European Council, Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán proposed a six-point plan, consisting of three strategic aims. The first one was to set up a common border protection system for countries like Greece, which are on the frontier of the EU but struggle to protect the borders. The second point called for support to countries outside the EU but on the migrant routes to help manage the migration crisis on the frontlines. The third objective was to clearly define which countries could be considered safe for refugees and, furthermore, to designate EU candidate countries as safe countries. In 2016, the so-called Schengen 2.0 proposal was put forward by the prime minister to compel Europe to prioritize strong, safe borders.

Also in September 2015, the billionaire financier George Soros published an article that embodied the alternative, competing approach. Entitled, “Here’s my plan to solve the asylum chaos,” Soros proposes that one million migrants should be admitted to Europe per year, distributed among the member states and given 15,000 EUR per year in state aid.

The Soros article describes what has essentially become the cornerstones of the European Commission’s approach to the crisis, an approach referred to as the so-called “quota system” or migrant “resettlement scheme” that is fundamentally pro-immigration. That plan aims to redistribute migrants (regardless of the legality of their entry) among member states thus inevitably creating a pull factor that encourages more illegal immigration. Countries reluctant to proceed with that plan face considerable political pressure and intimidation.

With the protective border fence now two years old, defending Europe’s southeastern frontier, that’s where the debate in Europe stands. On the one side, we have a pro-immigration approach and a resettlement scheme based on quotas. On the other side, we have a pro-security, strong borders approach that seeks to stop illegal immigration. Over the last several months, we’ve seen a growing number of European leaders join Hungary’s approach.

Let’s hope that fixing the “leak” in Europe’s borders and response to illegal immigration becomes a serious priority, that European nations maintain the right to make their own decisions on immigration, and that it won’t take another two years to get this problem under control.