The false sense of solidarity in Brussels

Protecting the borders of the 510 million-strong European community to ease the migration pressure on the old continent constitutes a meaningful demonstration of solidarity. Enforcing a dysfunctional, semi-legal political decision that only intensifies the illegal migration problem does not. Looks like some of the leading Eurocrats in Brussels have got their thinking twisted around.

“We don’t think it belongs to the question of solidarity to give up a nation’s constitutional rules and national sovereignty,” said Prime Minister Orbán in response to a reporter’s question on Friday about whether Hungary should show solidarity with Western Europe by taking in migrants. “Brussels on the other hand thinks that whatever they declare solidarity, that’s solidarity,” he continued. “This is a dictate.”

The distorted narrative that is spun from Brussels attempts to convince European citizens that somehow European solidarity should be connected to accepting migrants, many of whom have crossed illegally into the territory of the EU. That’s a stretch, to say the least.

On Wednesday, the European Court of Justice published its decision rejecting Hungary’s and Slovakia’s joint challenge to the EU’s migrant resettlement scheme. The court decision, as well as the top court’s Advocate General’s opinion on the case, released in July, refers to “solidarity” as a chief reason that member states should accept the migrant resettlement scheme. Solidarity is a great concept, but it is not a legal term, nor does it figure in the basic international agreements that form the foundation of the European Union. Even if it did, it is completely misinterpreted in this case.

Solidarity, for example, is Hungary spending 270 billion forints (EUR 883.2 million) from its own budget on the protection of the external borders of the European Union with physical barriers and trained manpower. These border protection measures have been taken solely to counter illegal border crossings. They prevent migrants from slipping past the official border crossings and crossing over the so-called green border into Europe’s Schengen Area. Before the border fence went up, that was not a small number. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants.

When Hungary sent a humble request to the EU that it could perhaps cover half of the bill (the other half still covered by Hungarian taxpayers), we received a categorical refusal and were then treated to a lecture on – you guessed it – solidarity.

"We are not financing the construction of fences or barriers at the external borders," Alexander Winterstein, EU Commission spokesperson said last week. In a subsequent letter to Prime Minister Orbán, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker delivered the solidarity lecture.

“Solidarity is a two-way street,” wrote Juncker. “There are times in which Member States may expect to receive support, and times in which they, in turn, should stand ready to contribute. And solidarity is not an à-la-carte dish; one that can be chosen for border management, and rejected when it comes to complying with relocation decisions that have been jointly agreed.”

Ponder that for a moment. The European Union has no authority to impose immigration policy on the member states. The Council decided in 2015 that any resettlement quotas within the European Union must be voluntary and that agreement was even put in writing. Meanwhile, the Schengen Agreement clearly says that participating countries have an obligation to protect and defend the external borders. Hungary is doing that. Yet, the president of the European Commission lectures us on solidarity as a “two-way street.”  

This week’s developments suggest that in Brussels the word solidarity has lost its true meaning. Protecting the European community is not considered an act of solidarity, but blindly following a bad political decision somehow is.

Let’s face it, quotas and resettlement are not working. Those hundreds of thousands who, for the lack of proper border protection, rioted on the streets of Budapest in 2015, demanding to be let through to Germany without proper background checks and in flagrant disregard for the rules on requesting asylum will not just settle down in Hungary. Further pushing the quota idea will only serve as a pull factor for the millions still waiting in line and those millions – regardless of quotas – will want to live in the country where they wanted to go in the first place, like Austria or Germany or another western EU country.

More importantly, there is no European legal basis for compulsory population resettlement on the continent, and there is a very good reason for that. The last time we saw that was during some of the darkest years of the former century.

Hungary demonstrates solidarity with the rest of the European community by protecting the external border. Hungary also remains in solidarity with the troubled millions in the Middle East. We are proud to have been recognized for rebuilding communities in war- and terror-torn countries and we will continue to help where the crisis arises.

As Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said recently, we are getting sick of being lectured about solidarity. Those who preach solidarity to Hungary seem to have no sense of the meaning of the word.