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Mar 08, 2016

‘Direct Migrant Resettlement is Out of the Question,’ says PM Orbán

“Frontiers must be closed down,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had said at the beginning of the day, “in other words: the legal framework has to be restored. The Schengen agreement must be kept word-by-word, so no one can come through without registration and permission.”

And that’s what the text of the EU agreement approved at the EU Council Summit adjourned yesterday in Brussels ultimately said. The days of the ”wave-through” policy are now over, and pressure is finally being applied to the human traffickers, because from now on the migration routes leading through the Western Balkans must be closed.

The meeting of EU heads of state or government was called specifically to tackle migration issues and conclude an agreement with Turkey. Compared to a year ago, the Orbán Government was far from isolated in its position that the borders should be closed. In fact, according to PM Orbán, it was thanks to the joint efforts of Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary that the final text takes this firm line, that the Western Balkans migration route should be closed down. That’s the position that Hungary, in the face of a barrage of criticism from a number of European capitals, has argued for months.

On the other priority issue of the day, the agreement with Turkey, the day brought a few surprises.

“The way it played out was that the Turks came here at noon and put on the table a proposal that touches on four, very difficult issue areas,” a local news portal quoted the prime minister as saying, “and we, during the course of the day, should say this or that, yes or no. That can’t happen.”

Hungary’s position going into the talks, as the prime minister told press while arriving in Brussels yesterday, is that “any kind of direct [mandatory] resettlement from Turkey into Europe is out of the question. At least under no circumstances into Hungary. There is no chance the Hungarian government would make any sort of allowance.”

“We consider the intake [of migrants] into Europe a mistake as well,” the prime minister added, “because if we directly resettle migrants directly from Turkey or Greece that’s an open invitation, fanning the flames, only more of them will come.”

“Nothing should be done without closing the borders [first],” he said. As the prime minister noted in a radio interview last week, Europe is “one of the most developed economic regions of the world. Our technical tools, development, and financial power makes it possible for us to protect ourselves.”

On the question of visa-free travel to Europe for citizens of Turkey, the prime minister said that Europe should give priority to Ukraine.