Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban is doubling down on his preferred solution to dealing with the floods of human misery that could easily once again overwhelm the Balkan corridor should the migrant deal with Turkey fall apart. His solution? To build a second fence along Hungary’s border with Serbia. Reuters:
“Technical planning is under way to erect a more massive defense system next to the existing line of defense which was built quickly (last year),” Orban said.
Orban said Hungary had to prepare for the eventuality of a deal between Turkey and the European Union to clamp down on migration into Europe via the Balkans unraveling.
“Then if it does not work with nice words, we will have to stop them with force, and we will do so,” Orban said.
The remarks came ahead of a meeting between Angela Merkel and the heads of the Visegrad countries—Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland—where, notably, both Orban and the Czech Republic’s Bohuslav Sobotka pressed the German Chancellor on the creation of a European army to help maintain border security for the continent.
Hungary is due to hold a referendum on EU migrant policy on October 2. The question—”Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens into Hungary even without the approval of the National Assembly?”—is giving many in Brussels the vapors. The referendum itself is not legally binding, but a strong popular rejection of any Europe-wide relocation scheme will be hard to ignore, especially since similar such sentiments appear to be widespread across eastern Europe.
In response, voices in Brussels are threatening to deprive the stubborn Eastern Europeans of funding if they refuse the migrant quota diktat, even as Merkel continues to plead for calm—”I think we will continue to discuss this issue,” she said at today’s meeting. No one in the east is yet seriously mulling some kind of Brexit option, but they certainly are watching carefully how the UK fares as it distances itself from Brussels.
As is often the case in the EU, a slow-motion tragedy is well under way. Unlike other tragedies, which involve complicated and difficult technical questions stemming from economic integration, the sticking point here is more one of ideology: commitment to a pure kind of universal liberalism on the side of Brussels and Germany, and a growing skepticism among the continent’s peripheral countries.
One side ought to yield for the greater good. As Adam Garfinkle argued in his incredibly prescient piece from September of last year, sticking to the universal principles on the question of immigration is a suicidal gambit, and playing holier-than-thou with dissenters will only deepen divisions on the continent.“Wanting one’s own community to be a certain way is not aggressively or actively prejudicial against others, any more than declining to give money to a beggar on a city street is morally equivalent to hitting him in the head with a crowbar,” he wrote.
Unfortunately, compromises over ideals can end up being more difficult to arrive at than mere technocratic problems. This is likely to get ugly.