There should be little surprise in the fact that Prime Minister Orbán’s common sense proposals have steadily (not suddenly!) prevailed, but we’re pleased to see that the media has noticed.
Long before the influx hit crisis proportions, before migrants by the hundreds of thousands were crossing illegally into the territory of the European Union, Prime Minister Orbán was calling for action to strengthen the external borders of Europe and curb illegal migration.
He has emphatically opposed proposals from Brussels that would encourage migration and usurp from member states our authority to decide on immigration – like the European Commission’s compulsory migrant resettlement quota scheme – and advocated instead a robust response that must include securing the external borders of Schengen, moving the asylum processing centers to hotspots outside the territory of Europe, and delivering smarter assistance directly to the areas affected by armed conflict and instability.
The prime minister has noted several times over the last couple of years – and I’ve called attention to it here on this blog – that other European leaders are gradually coming around to a more common-sense approach.
“[Y]ou will see that [the EU] assigned top priority to protecting the borders and halting the masses of migrants,” said Prime Minister Orbán following the summit in February 2016. “In other words, we declared that they must be stopped, the external borders must be protected and the terms of the Schengen Agreement must be fully observed by everyone.”
“Change is happening country by country,” the prime minister noted more recently, in a radio interview in July, commenting on the joint letter of Germany’s and Italy’s interior ministers calling for an end to the “illusion of limitless welcoming.”
Now, even POLITICO Europe has noticed the shift.
“[L]ook closely at how EU leaders now talk about the issue and the policies they’ve adopted since the 2015 crisis,” writes POLITICO’s Jacopo Barigazzi, “and it’s clear Orbán’s preference for interdiction over integration has somehow prevailed.”
He points to lines in European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s recent State of the Union speech where he was sounding like our prime minister. “When it comes to returns,” said Juncker, “people who have no right to stay in Europe must be returned to their countries of origin.”
“Nobody will admit it in this town,” the article quotes another official saying, “but yes, Orbán’s narrative is prevailing.”
The article goes on to cite several other examples, including President Macron’s backing of PM Orbán’s proposal to establish migrant processing centers outside the territory of the EU, (which I wrote about in “These Western leaders are beginning to sound like PM Orbán on migration”), but it’s probably too early to signal the total victory of the common sense approach.
“EU leadership,” according to the article, “remains committed to policies of openness, and especially to encourage legal migration — a point Juncker stressed in his speech.”
That’s a reminder that our political fight, as the prime minister said following the ECJ’s decision, has just begun. Hungary will not change its immigration policy, and the EU has no business “encouraging” migration of any kind because decisions about immigration rest solely with the individual member states.
It’s good to see the prime minister getting some credit for ‘winning the migration argument’ with proposals that, in Orbán’s own words, were previously seen as coming “from the Devil himself.” What’s at stake in this debate over migration is nothing less than the future of Europe, so it’s vital that reason and common sense prevail.