The real fear of the Hungarians and their fellow Eastern Europeans is that the uncontrolled flow of migrants will force an end to the EU free movement policy which was one of the great attractions of membership for those states. And, of course, they are absolutely right. It is almost inevitable that border controls will be re-established for the duration of the present emergency. Arguably the Schengen principle is one of the causes of this crisis. It is now clearly understood all over the world that all of rich modern Europe will become instantly accessible if you can manage to set foot on any corner of an EU state: so the tiniest Greek island or the southernmost tip of the poorest region of Italy, which have no resources for registering and processing the arrival of huge numbers of people, become the entry points for unrestricted movement. What was intended to be a domestic freedom for Europeans within their own continent has become unbounded territory for the desperate populations of the world. This surely must be the irresistible pitch of the people traffickers.
The restoration of open borders, assuming it becomes necessary to suspend them, will become a moot point to be debated at great length and with maximum acrimony. This will be especially awkward since the forcible “redistribution” of migrants now under consideration must require border controls. The unelected European Commission is to propose a plan for 160,000 asylum seekers from Hungary, Italy and Greece to be “relocated” around the EU states. This would involve imposing quotas of more than 55,000 refugees on countries such as Spain and the Eastern states even though they had opposed a previous plan that involved taking more modest numbers. This is what the EU regards as democracy.
Disregarding national governments and their electorates is profoundly dangerous: it is probably no more than gross insensitivity but it might as well be a deliberate provocation to far-Right nationalist forces. (A French opinion poll last week asked, “Should France welcome a share of migrants and refugees currently trying to reach the EU, notably from Syria?” 56 per cent of respondents said “No”.) If this is not handled properly, if the EU becomes ever more heavy-handed in its panic, then the potential for public resentment turning to political unrest will be serious.