Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban laid bare divisions within the European Union over how to deal with a renewed surge of asylum seekers, with an unusually violent comment before a meeting of the bloc’s leaders.
(Bloomberg) — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban laid bare divisions within the European Union over how to deal with a renewed surge of asylum seekers, with an unusually violent comment before a meeting of the bloc’s leaders.
Orban — who has a history of engaging in inflammatory and at times inaccurate rhetoric — compared a move to skirt Hungarian and Polish opposition to a new EU proposal to committing sexual assault and said it rendered any effort to discuss a bloc-wide solution at an informal summit in Spain pointless.
“Politically it’s impossible, not today, generally speaking, for the next years,” Orban told reporters in Granada, southern Spain, before he went on to compare the situation to a sexual attack. When you’re “forced” to accept a solution that “you don’t like, how would you like to have a compromise agreement? It’s impossible.”
A new migration and asylum proposal would allow member states to choose whether to host migrants or provide a financial or non-financial contribution instead. A qualified majority of the bloc’s 27 countries gave preliminary approval to the package earlier this week over Hungary and Poland’s objections, putting the legislation on course to be adopted as soon as the spring.
Poland and Hungary have been particularly critical of the EU plan to relocate migrants, with Warsaw arguing that it has already hosted large numbers of war refugees from Ukraine. It’s even more contentious in Poland with the ruling Law & Justice party campaigning on an anti-immigrant platform ahead of Oct. 15 elections.
Migration is returning to the fore after the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers in 2015 tested the EU’s tolerance. The continent is now seeing another spike in arrivals as more people, particularly from the Middle East and Africa, flee violence and poverty at home.
Some EU nations have started taking unilateral measures to tighten controls, challenging the free movement of people in the passport-free Schengen zone in most of the EU, with most recently Slovakia imposing random checks on Hungary’s border.
Though Orban touts himself as an anti-immigrant leader, he’s under fire at home for inviting tens of thousands of foreign laborers from far-flung corners to work in factories amid a dire labor shortage afflicting most of the EU.
His government on Thursday unexpectedly withdrew a law that would have taken effect next month and which would have made it easier for non-EU workers to take up jobs in Hungary.
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