Will Merkel and Orban manage to agree on refugees?

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, known for his anti-immigration policy, will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Will she manage to persuade the obstinate colleague to compromise on readmission of refugees? On Thursday, July 5, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss European immigration policy with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Berlin. First of all, it will be about creating transit centers on the border of Austria and Germany, of which migrants already registered in other EU countries will be sent back to those EU states in which they passed the registration procedure.

Hungary, bordering Austria, is one of the EU countries, through the territory of which the famous “Balkan route” passes, along which the largest number of migrants arrived in Europe in 2014-2015. Nevertheless, Austria and Hungary have so far refused to conclude an administrative agreement with Germany on the readmission (return admission) of refugees.

Orban’s anti-immigration policy

The love of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for loud statements seems to be as strong as his dislike for refugees. An example of this is his pathetic speech, delivered in the fall of 2015. Then Orban said that “every European politician who gives migrants hope for a better life and encourages them to give up everything and go to Europe is irresponsible.” And he called on the Europeans to “re-embark on the path of prudence,” otherwise they will “lose the battle, which has a fateful significance.”

The 55-year-old head of the Hungarian government said these words at a time when the migration crisis in Europe reached its peak. He was the first European politician to order the construction of barbed wire fences on the border to prevent migrants from entering Hungary.

The Hungarian prime minister calls migration “the Trojan horse of terrorism,” and, in his own words, opposes the “mixing of nations” in order to “preserve the ethnic composition of the Hungarian people.” Orban clearly adheres to his position and refuses to comply with the requirements of the European Union for the reception and distribution of refugees. According to EU quotas, Hungary was supposed to accept 1300 refugees. So far, none of them have been allowed into the country. Neither protests in Hungary itself, nor complaints and EU penalties forced Orban to change his anti-migration course.

Orban – an example for populists and conservatives in Germany

For many Hungarians, the words of the head of government were not a surprise. Orban, co-founder and chairman of the FIDES – Hungarian Civil Union party, has been the country’s prime minister since 2010. And this is not his first term in a high state post. From 1998 to 2002, he already headed the cabinet. In recent years, tightening migration policies has become Orban’s main political strategy. The politician, who was considered liberal at the beginning of his career, today claims the “danger” that, in his opinion, “is represented by migrants seeking Europe.”

Thanks to his anti-immigration policies, Orban and his government are supported by voters. In the parliamentary elections held in early April, the FIDES party Orban won an impressive victory, gaining 48.5% of the vote. Since then, FIDES venue with a coalition partner of the Christian Democratic People’s Party controls two-thirds of the parliament.

However, not only the Hungarians support the Orbans strategy. In Germany, for example, left-wing politicians sharply criticize Orban, while a number of conservatives from the Christian Social Union (CSU), which is part of the ruling coalition, approve of his views. Orban repeatedly came to Bavaria to meet with politicians from this party. The head of the CSU, the current Minister of the Interior of Germany, Horst Seehofer, who advocates a radical reduction in the influx of migrants into the country and recently had a big argument with Angela Merkel about this, in October 2016 even called Orbán “dear Victor”. Orban, in turn, called the CSU politicians his “brothers in arms.”

The mismatch between rhetoric and the number of refugees

However, the situation with migrants in Europe, as described by the Hungarian prime minister, and the importance in the life of Europeans that he assigns to her, do not correspond to the real situation.

So, as of December 2017, 2.3 million migrants were in 28 EU countries with a population of more than 500 million people. This is 0.45 percent of the total number of citizens of the European Union. And even less is the share of migrants in terms of population – in Hungary itself. In the transit zone on the border with Serbia, which Hungary voluntarily created, there are now several hundred refugees. According to official figures, in 2017, 3,350 people asked for asylum in Hungary, mainly immigrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

About 1000 of them received subsidiary protection, that is, a temporary right to stay in the country, since they are threatened with torture, the death penalty or other immediate threat to life in their homeland. And only 100 asylum applications were granted – the applicants received the right to stay in the country, they were guaranteed medical care. For a month they can remain in the hostel for refugees, and then they are obliged to provide for themselves.

Now for 10 thousand inhabitants in Hungary there are only 6 refugees. For comparison: in Germany this figure is 117. As far back as 2017 in Brussels, Prime Minister Orban said that migrants are not a problem of Europe, but of Germany.

Now, in anticipation of a meeting with Merkel, according to the Bild newspaper, Orban allegedly agreed under certain conditions to conclude an agreement on readmission of refugees with Germany. But before, he said, Berlin should conclude the same agreement with Vienna.

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