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Sep 21, 2018 - Zoltán Kovács

No surrender: Hungarian borders must be protected by Hungarians

PM Orbán has been saying it for years. Europe must make border security the top priority, before any discussion of quotas or anything of the kind. Now, as we heard in Salzburg this week, some are finally coming around to the stark reality that protecting Europe’s border is serious business. That’s generally a step in the right direction, but some of the proposals out there take things off track.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán arrived at the informal summit of European leaders, which was held in Salzburg this week, with the clear and unequivocal message that Hungary will not hand over the right of border protection to Brussels.

“We will not let anyone take away even an iota of our right to border protection,” the PM said prior to the meeting responding to word of the latest plans coming out of Berlin that would have frontier states hand over border control authority to Frontex, the EU’s border and coast guard agency.

Although we are glad to see that the conversation around immigration is finally focusing more attention on border protection, Hungary stands as one of the few among the external border states that have proven that we can secure our border. We do it ourselves. We have experience defending a border. We know how to do it.

“Frontex is a fine thing, but never once in its life has it defended a single meter of border, while we have defended hundreds of kilometers,” Prime Minister Orbán said on Thursday, emphasizing that “we’re capable of protecting our borders. We insist on the right to keep it our job.”

Meanwhile, PM Orbán said that he has submitted a proposal that would solve the problem, not at the expense of member states but by allowing “the right of defense to be retained by member states.” 

According to the proposal, if certain member states are not capable of fulfilling their border protection responsibilities, they should turn to bi-lateral or regional solutions where other states can assist them. If that's not possible, then bring Frontex in. The key here is that the member state remains responsible for the border and, if that state cannot do it, it may request help. In certain scenarios the Schengen membership of the country concerned could even be suspended and the given country could be replaced with the next neighboring state.

Reporting on the outcome of the summit Antal Rogán, the minister heading the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, said that “member state leaders rejected the part of the EU border controls proposal that Hungary finds objectionable.” 

“The battle, however, is not over yet,” Rogán said, adding that “leaders of member states will discuss continually the proposal before the end of the year.”