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Nov 02, 2016 - Zoltán Kovács

PM Orbán: Frontex ‘not dealing with border protection’ as EU members disagree over migration

“It is a colorful, big cavalcade, not an easy task to make some sort of compromise,” said Prime Minister Orbán in this morning’s radio interview, explaining the difficult nature of discussions on migration in the EU.

The prime minister dismissed recent criticism from Prime Minister Renzi, in which the Italian premier condemned as “unacceptable” Hungary’s approach that “puts up walls against the migrants.” PM Orbán pushed back, asserting that Hungary does its share in managing the crisis by successfully protecting the external Schengen border, while at the same time, Europe’s border protection agency, Frontex, seems to have given up that goal.

“At the beginning of the migration crisis, everybody was aiming [to be seen as] a good man,” as someone who helps people in trouble. “No one asked the questions who these people were, were they really in need, what risks letting them in might bear, did we know them, what did they really want and where is the end of this? These questions were put on the table by Hungary.” That gives Prime Minister Orbán an obligation to represent this position and express Hungary’s stance in the European Council. 

It is not an easy task because the “starting points are very different” among member states. The prime minister pointed to five different approaches.

“There are Italy and Greece, the two problematic countries, because they are unable to protect the outer borders [of the Schengen zone],” although it “would have been their duty” to guarantee that no one should enter the territory of Europe unchecked, Prime Minister Orbán said, reminding that this responsibility comes from the Schengen Agreement.

“Then, there are [the positions of] us, and Croatians, Slovenians and a little bit the Romanians,” who are confronted by the migrant wave that the Greeks were “unable to stop.”

Also, there are the V4 countries, situated “on the Eastern edge of the EU,” they are not yet directly exposed but for geographical reasons they are sensitive to the problem.

Then, we have the “inner states, which practically we protect” from the migration wave, who don’t have to protect their own borders and “don’t even have border patrols.”

Also, there are the “rich countries,” which serve as destinations for the migrants, because “it turns out that migrants do not come here for safety, but for better living standards. So they want to go to Germany, Austria and Sweden” and these countries again have different interests regarding the crisis.

In calling the Hungarian approach “unacceptable,” Prime Minister Renzi also argued “that the countries who take the money [should] also take in the migrants” and said that Eastern member states like the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary are showing a “lack of solidarity.”

In response, Prime Minister Orbán sympathized, saying “The Italian Prime Minister has a very good reason to be anxious, and I understand this,” citing the fiscal problem that Italy has the largest debt in the EU, after Greece, the nature of Italian politics, the social tensions between North and West, the earthquakes that shake the country and that “on top of that, these swarms of migrants end up there” because of the proximity of their shores.

“But one has to decide whether he’s taking part in a treaty or not,” as according to the Schengen Agreement, Italy is nevertheless supposed to make sure that only “registered, recorded, checked and from a security perspective, cleared persons should be let in the territory of the Europe.” Today, Italy is failing to meet this requirement, whereas Hungary has showed that abiding by this policy is “hard, but not impossible.”

What’s more, the prime minister said that Hungary’s costs for border protection are, by proportion, “equivalent or even higher” than what Germany spends on the social aids to migrants, so Hungary should not be accused of lacking solidarity. 

“If the question is whether Europe is providing the needed help to Italy, then the answer is no,” and a good example of that is how the Europe Union’s border agency Frontex is dealing with the issue. “1500 people work there, while at just the Hungarian border 8000 are working day and night,” and the people of Frontex “are not dealing with border protection, but as immigration agents.” It would seem that these people are not sent to the border to stop the wave.

“Since the outer borders could not be protected,” the large member states want to uphold the right to protect the inner borders of the EU, which is at odds with the interests of the EU citizens and businesses. That’s one dysfunctional approach and the other one is the mandatory relocation system. “It is not a cure for any disease to infect the neighbor as well,” the PM said.

According to Prime Minister Orbán, this, as well as the prolonged stalemate over the issue is a result of a clash of policies and disagreement in the EU on how to deal with the crisis. Some member states want outer borders to be protected and the migration influx to be stopped, whereas others, like the Italian prime minister, he said, just “want to live with it.”