Dec 09, 2016 - Zoltán Kovács

Illegal migration, the European Council and restoring democracy in Europe

As citizens prepare for the third Sunday of Advent, heads of the EU member states once again gather in Brussels to discuss the pressing migration crisis. The differences will resemble the struggle of David against Goliath, said Prime Minister Orbán in his radio interview last week, and in the role of David stand the Visegrád Four countries, including Hungary.

The struggle will be over the mandatory quota system that Brussels has proposed. Hungary has opposed the plan from the start, asserting that it does little to address the problem and that instead greater effort should go to restoring law and order at the border first.

New member states and countries aspiring to join the European Union have proven that if there is a will, there is a way. Along the Western Balkans migration route, Europe’s southern border has been secured. The system requires cooperation, maintenance, improvement – as I write this, the construction of the first ten kilometers of a third defense line, a “smart fence” has just been completed – and it costs a lot of money, but it’s working. International examples like Australia’s show that coastal lines may be protected just as effectively. But only if there is a political will to do so, and as the signs show, that will is lacking in the EU at the moment.

In recent weeks, the Hungarian prime minister met his Serbian counterpart, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, and praised Serbia’s cooperation in protecting the EU’s southern border. This week, PM Orbán decorated Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borrissov with the Civil Division of the Hungarian Order of Merit, not just his role in strengthening the friendship between the two countries but also for his measures to protect Europe’s southeastern border. It seems that countries that are not yet part of the Schengen Area do more for the protection of it, than some countries who are.

“Those governments that do not take into account the will of their people are all going to fail,” Prime Minister Orbán said about democracy in Europe, adding that “people do not want [an influx of] migration…although they cordially help the ones in real trouble.” PM Orbán said that Hungary “has to hold on until democracy is restored” in Europe. As long as “people want something other than what their leaders try to force upon them” the democratic balance is flawed. According to the rules of democracy, the prime minister said, the balance will be restored eventually.

Commenting on developments on Turkey, the prime minister reiterated that Turkey’s stability is in the interest of Hungary and Europe.

It’s too early to tell whether the December meeting of EU heads of state and government will bring the much needed change in Europe’s approach to migration. As always, we hope for the best but prepare for something else.