By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest
(Listen to this report via BosNewsLife Radio)
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– The European Union’s executive has made clear that it will not provide additional funds of hundreds of millions of euros to pay for controversial anti-migrant fences in Hungary. The European Commission’s announcement came after Hungary’s prime minister asked the EU to pay for half of the cost of the huge razor-wire barriers it built on its southern borders.
In a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said anti-migrant fences erected in 2015 on the borders with Serbia and Croatia nearly eliminated the migrant flow through Hungary, guarding more than just his country.
The fiercely anti-migration prime minister wrote that with the construction of the fence and the training and placing of 3,000 border hunters into active service” Hungary was in his words “protecting not only itself but entire Europe against the flood of illegal migrants.”
He added that he hopes that in the spirit of “European solidarity” Hungary could rightly expect that the European Union’s executive European Commission … will reimburse half of his country’s “extraordinary border protection expenses in the foreseeable future.”
Orbán said Europe needed to show solidarity with Hungary’s border security efforts, not just with Greece and Italy, the countries which have received the brunt of the migration influx.
440 MILLION EURO
In the letter, he asked that the EU pays for at least half of the fences, some 440 million euros ($523 million).
But European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein had bad news for prime minister Orbán. “We are not financing the construction of fences or barriers at external borders. We do support border management measures at external borders. This can be surveillance measures. This can be border control equipment. But fences, we do not finance,” Winterstein told reporters. “We won’t change” our stance on that.
Spokesman Winterstein made clear that Hungary should use funds already earmarked in the 2014-2020 EU budget.
He also noted that Prime Minister Orbán’s demand comes less than a week before the European Court of Justice is scheduled to rule on a legal challenge launched by Hungary and Slovakia against an EU plan to the relocate refugees among member states. “Solidarity is a two-way street, and all member states should be ready to contribute,” he said.
A LA CARTE MENU
“This is not some sort of a la carte menu where you pick one dish, for example, border management while refusing another dish, like compliance with relocation decisions,” Winterstein added.
Orbán’s right-wing government has promoted a “Let’s Stop Brussels” billboard and publicity campaign rejecting the EU’s migration policies.
Last year, over 98 percent of participating voters said the EU shouldn’t settle anyone in Hungary without the consent of the Hungarian Parliament, but the referendum was invalid because of low voter turnout.
This week Hungary extended a state of emergency for six months, allowing thousands of troops, police and ‘border hunters’ to remain in the frontier area.
International rights groups have said an atmosphere or hatred has led to border police abuse against migrants fleeing war and poverty in Hungary, charges the government denies. Similar mistreatment has been reported in neighboring Croatia.
(Budapest-based BosNewsLife covers the trials and triumphs of those suffering for their faith as well as former Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. NEWS WATCH also deals with issues impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals).