As the situation in Syria and Iraq continues to deteriorate, residents have been fleeing the area in droves. This has led to a serious refugee crisis everywhere they go, as well as raising uncomfortable questions about what the obligations of the various nations in the area might be in terms of taking care of them. Hungary has been getting a lot of heat over the response of their Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, who is being described by the international media as well as other leaders in the neighborhood in less than charitable terms. (BBC)
There is sympathy in Brussels for the dilemma facing Hungary as the latest flashpoint in Europe’s migration crisis. But there are precious few admirers of either the rhetoric or the solutions put forward by Hungary’s controversial Prime Minister, Viktor Orban.
“It’s Germany’s problem,” he said in the European Parliament. And the moral thing to say to refugees? “Please don’t come here.”
His interlocutors in the European institutions made no attempt to sugar coat their disagreements with the pugnacious Mr Orban. There were – unusually – very public rebukes.
“What we’re seeing,” said Martin Schulz, the parliamentary president, “is egoism instead of common European sense”.
The situation is dire to be sure, and this morning Hungary actually closed the border with Serbia, at least temporarily. But the reason that there is so much anger being directed at Orban seems to center on his rather nationalist stance regarding the sudden deluge of migrants. In a recent interview (note that the source material is in German) he made a few statements which are being described as “inflammatory” because he talked about preserving the Christian roots of his country and not wanting to suddenly allow tens of thousands of Muslims to move in. (The Guardian)
Hungary’s rightwing prime minister, Viktor Orbán, vowed on Friday that he would not let Europeans become “a minority in our own continent”, reiterating on Hungarian state radio his determination to stop the refugees. He said: “Today we are talking about tens of thousands, but next year we will be talking about millions and this has no end.
“We have to make it clear that we can’t allow everyone in, because if we allow everyone in, Europe is finished. If you are rich and attractive to others, you also have to be strong because if not, they will take away what you have worked for and you will be poor, too.”
So the common consensus is that Orban is a hateful, bigoted creep, right? But when you look at what he’s saying I have to wonder how much of this bashing is populist pressure from more socialist leaning forces which ignore some of the PM’s basic concerns. Chief among these is the idea of maintaining the sovereignty of his own nation and not having either the EU or the UN dictating what will go on inside their borders.
But it is also about smaller countries objecting to having policies imposed upon them by others.
That, though, is exactly what may be about to happen. The big guns are moving into position.
France and Germany are putting forward joint proposals for a mandatory quota system that could see more than 100,000 refugees distributed “more fairly” across the EU.
They have been in close contact with the European Commission and the European Council.
I’m not saying Orban is a saint or that he’s perfect by any means, but what’s really so destructive about the position he’s taking? He’s trying to hold on to the border integrity of his nation and is wary of accepting a flood of people with no allegiance to their flag. Also, considering where these folks are coming from, is it truly all that crazy to be suspicious? I can’t imagine a better time for a terrorist aligned radical to make their way deep into Europe than the middle of a flood of refugees.
Conditions at the camps that Orban set up seem to be truly horrible, though, and if they are going to accept some refugees temporarily they really need to do a better job of making sure that food and water make it to the people staying there. But when it comes to questions of how many migrants they are willing to take it, it seems to me that this is a question for Orban and his citizens to decided, not France and Germany.