Even if Hungary’s border defense system has slowed the influx, “we are under siege,” the prime minister said, and certain interests in Europe “only make our work harder.” The onslaught of biased and misinformed reports we’ve seen over the last week since the Hungarian Parliament passed the new migration law underline the prime minister’s point.
Demonstrating that where there’s a will, there’s a way, we have managed to nearly halt completely, with legislative and physical barriers, the illegal migration that was entering Europe via the Western Balkans route through Hungary. That’s our basic obligation under the international law of Schengen, yet some member states seem to have abandoned this responsibility.
Europe has been too slow in understanding why countries of the Schengen Area must protect the external border. If you want to hold onto the precious freedom of movement that European citizens enjoy within the Schengen zone, if you want to keep away those internal border controls and passport checks, then you have to protect the external border.
I traveled to a briefing in Vienna recently and encountered something I haven’t seen for years, something practically unknown to the youngest generation of Hungarian voters: long lines of cars waiting at a border check reinstated by Austria.
I tweeted a picture of the scene with the text reading “that’s why you need to seal the Schengen borders against illegal immigration”, and a journalist from a prominent weekly immediately jumped on it. The writer seemed to think it hypocritical for me to complain when Hungary had done the same to the Hungary-Serbia border.
Like so many, the journalist completely missed the point, failing to grasp the difference between an external border and an internal border of Schengen. The external borders are supposed to be hard borders, reinforced and protected for the security of all of Europe’s Schengen zone. The internal borders are supposed to be open.
If you don’t protect the outer borders of Schengen, then countries inside will end up protecting the internal borders. That’s an imposition on Europe’s law-abiding citizens and puts a serious damper on the freedom of movement that we hold dear. Some seem to think that undocumented migrants should have the same freedom of movement in Europe.
“It is not a basic human right for [undocumented] masses to march through safe countries, violate the relevant international and national laws and to choose where they wish to live,” Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Szijjarto said recently. He was responding to one of the numerous reports criticizing Hungary’s security-first response to the migration crisis. Putting the rights of illegals before the rights of European citizens is, as Prime Minister Orbán has said, “insane”.
The pressure on the border remains, but Hungary has mounted a strong defense and, unlike some Schengen countries, we are now in control of the border. The political pressure on Hungary, however, in the lead up to the passage of the new law has intensified (read more about the new law here). We’ve seen international NGOs tied to pro-migration philanthropist billionaire George Soros release shoddy reports denigrating Hungary, the US State Department criticize the government for treatment of migrants, European liberals host another “Hungary roast” in Brussels, and unprofessional news media willfully misinterpret PM Orbán’s remarks on the preservation of European identity. Then there was that beauty from Reuters reporting on the new Hungarian “smart” border fence that has electric sensors to signal when it’s being cut. The article insinuated that it was meant to “deliver an electric shock.”
Despite the pressure, the Orbán Government won’t back down because protecting Europe’s external border is not only our duty as a member of Schengen, it’s vital to maintaining security and freedom of movement in the EU.