Hungary should be kicked out of EU for ill treatment of refugees – Luxembourg FM

Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. © Eric Vidal
Hungary should be suspended or even expelled from the EU for its approach to refugees, Luxembourg's foreign minister announced. Just days before leaders meet to discuss the future of the bloc, he stressed migrants are treated “nearly as bad as animals.”

Speaking to the German daily Die Welt, Jean Asselborn criticized Hungary for the way it has dealt with the refugee crisis, saying that such behavior should come with consequences.

“Anyone who, like Hungary, builds fences against refugees from war or who violates press freedom and judicial independence should be excluded temporarily, or if necessary for ever, from the EU,” Asselborn said as quoted by AP, adding that it's the only way to “preserve the cohesion and values of the European Union.”

He went on to claim that refugees are being treated “nearly as bad as animals” in Hungary.

The Hungarian government has been vehemently opposed to taking in refugees from conflict areas such as Syria since Europe's refugee crisis began. It constructed a fence along its border with Serbia in September 2015 and blocked a passage from Croatia one month later.

Budapest also introduced new legislation punishing illegal entry and vandalism of the border fences. The laws have led to almost 3,000 convictions in fast-track trials, most of which resulted in expulsion orders, according to Deutsche Welle.

However, Asselborn claimed things could quickly get even worse in the country, saying that anyone hoping to breach Hungary's “ever longer, ever taller” fence may be met with death.

“Hungary is not far from an order to shoot refugees,” Asselborn declared.

As for Luxembourg's welcoming of refugees, Asselborn said in March that the EU's second-smallest country by area, which has a population of just 543,000 people, had a capacity to house 4,000 asylum seekers. At that point, 3,000 had already been resettled in the country, the Luxemburger Wort reported.

The foreign minister's Tuesday statements come after a July report from Human Rights Watch outlined the “cruel and violent treatment” of refugees who cross into Hungary illegally. It added that men, women, and children have been “viciously beaten and forced back across the border.”

Asselborn was speaking just days before 27 EU leaders meet in Bratislava to discuss the future of the bloc.

Under current rules, a nation can be suspended from the EU following a unanimous vote of the rest of the bloc. Asselborn has called for the rule to be reconsidered so that a unanimous vote would no longer be necessary.

The Luxembourg foreign minister’s view was rejected by a number of fellow EU politicians. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that "this is not an agreed position in Europe.”

"I can understand, looking at Hungary, that some in Europe are getting impatient... however, it is not my personal approach to show a European member state the door," Steinmeier said at a news conference in Riga.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto called Asselborn “an intellectual lightweight” who “lives a sermonizing, pompous and frustrated life … just a few kilometers from Brussels.”

“The comments are strange, coming from Luxembourg, the home of ‘tax optimization’ and [EU Commission President] Jean-Claude Juncker, who also talks about burden-sharing,” Szijjarto wrote in an email to Hungary’s MTI news agency.

“But we all know that simply means making Hungary bear the burden of others’ mistakes. The Hungarian government refuses — the Hungarian people will give their opinion [in a planned referendum] on October 2,” he added.

Hungary is remaining steadfast in its position, and will hold a government-sponsored referendum on October 2, in which it will seek public support for rejecting EU quotas to resettle refugees among member states.

“Migration will have great consequences in Europe and in this situation we, Europeans haven’t even decided what we want. Our real problem is Brussels, not the migrants,” Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in recent remarks. “It’s only logical, that if we invite the refugees, they will come.”

“I hope with the Hungarian referendum we set an example for the rest of Europe and after the EU election next spring a new elite will lead the EU institutions instead of the current elite of nihilists, including Juncker, [leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament, Guy] Verhofstadt and [President of the European Parliament, Martin] Schulz.”

Hungary became inundated with refugees last year, as more than 1 million people headed through central Europe from the shores of Greece towards Western Europe, particularly Germany. The EU is still struggling to handle the refugee crisis, which has been dubbed the worst since World War II.