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6 Apr, 2017 03:14

‘Ultimatum’: EU paints Hungary as ‘villain’ in migrant dispute, trying to pressure court – minister

‘Ultimatum’: EU paints Hungary as ‘villain’ in migrant dispute, trying to pressure court – minister

Budapest has lashed out at Brussels following a report claiming Hungary will be pressed into accepting its share of migrants in accordance with the EU redistribution scheme, with threats of being booted out of the block.

Pal Volner, State Secretary at the Hungarian Justice Ministry, said in a statement the report was an attempt by Brussels to put pressure on the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ahead of the upcoming proceedings, in which Hungary, Slovakia and Poland will be trying to overturn the migrant quota mechanism.

The statements “grossly violate” the court’s independence and are designed to “entice” it “into the migrant business,” Volner said.

The rebuke apparently came in response to an article that appeared by The Times on Tuesday, in which the newspaper cited a senior diplomatic source from one of the EU founding members saying that the bloc’s leading members, France and Germany, as well as up to 21 other countries, are poised to declare an ultimatum to Hungary and Poland.  

“They will have to make a choice: are they in the European system or not? You cannot blackmail the EU, unity has a price,” the diplomatic source told the Times, speaking about the staunch opposition to the scheme approved by the bloc in late 2015.

According to the source, there is little doubt that the court will reaffirm the legality of the quota scheme, thus siding with the founding members and the majority of the bloc. The court is set to start hearing the case in May and is expected to deliver the verdict by next year.

“No more opt-outs. There is no more ‘one foot in and one foot out,” it stressed.

Although the petition against the quota system was filed jointly by Budapest and Bratislava, there was no mention of Slovakia in the report, which led to Volner to suspect an EU bias against Hungary and Poland. The recent bid by Austria to withdraw from the scheme also was not covered in the piece, he noted.

Volner claimed that such selectiveness shows the bloc is trying to apply political pressure on Hungary and Poland in particular.

“Brussels leaders trying to play it tough treat Hungary as a miscreant and want to send it off to the “sin bin,” he said.

Earlier, Poland took a similar stance towards the report, with Warsaw’s foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, arguing that Poland has been sharing the migrant burden on a par with other EU countries, citing 1.26 million visa applications by Ukrainians approved by the Polish authorities last year, with half of them enabling arrivals to work and live in Poland.

“That should end the discussion. Poland is a country that is also exposed to a great wave of migration,” Waszczykowski told journalists, speaking in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

He added he “doesn’t see” any possibility of Poland’s being penalized for denying refugees, referring to possible financial sanctions touted by the source in the report.

The Hungarian authorities have been long waging a vocal campaign against what they see as Brussels’ overreaching influence on internal state affairs, especially in the realm of migration policy. Since the refugee crisis hit Europe in 2015, Hungary’s controversial policies, such as constructing a wire fence on its border with Serbia and Croatia, and green-lighting the automatic detention of all asylum-seekers at border camps, have come under intense scrutiny.

READ MORE: Drop mandatory refugee quotas or face lawsuit and ‘big battle,’ Hungarian PM tells Brussels

Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban is known for sharp criticism of EU migration policy and the nature of the migrant crisis.

“Migration is the Trojan wooden horse of terrorism,” Orban said in March while introducing reinforcement to border patrols, labeled “border hunters,” adding that his country is “still, at this moment, under siege.”

Last week, Hungary launched a campaign, asking citizens “what Hungary should do” in a questionnaire dubbed “Let’s stop Brussels.” Among the points to which the Hungarians are to provide their opinion, is migration. The respective question asks if “illegal immigration should be kept under supervision until the authorities decide in their cases” or “we should allow illegal immigrants to move freely in Hungary.” It also said that “Brussels wants to force Hungary to let in illegal immigrants” despite a recent wave of terrorist attacks that have shaken Europe.