Political News

Viktor Orban: EU court ruling opens door to 'mixed culture'

Posted September 8

— A ruling by the European Union's top court upholding the relocation of asylum-seekers opens the way to a "mixed culture and population" on the continent, Hungary's prime minister said Friday.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that while he "took note" of Wednesday's ruling by the European Court of Justice rejecting legal arguments by Hungary and Slovakia against the EU decision to relocate 160,000 asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy within the bloc, he would continue to oppose the plan.

"Now, instead of a legal fight, we have to fight a political fight," Orban said during an interview on state radio. "We have to get the different EU organizations to say that the decision they made, even if it was legal, was a bad decision ... which the member states can't and won't carry out."

Despite frequent urging by EU officials, only around 27,700 people have been relocated since September 2015.

"We are not an immigrant country and Hungary does not want one to be an immigrant country," said Orban. The EU "is trying to transform Europe's traditional population and culture into a continent with a mixed population and a mixed culture."

Hungary built razor-wire fences on its southern borders in late 2015, when some 400,000 migrants from the Middle East and Asia passed through the country on their way to Western Europe. Orban says the fences, which have practically stopped the migrant flow, also protect Austria, Germany and the rest of Europe and has asked the EU to contribute about 440 million euros ($530 millon) to the barriers' cost and maintenance.

The EU said that it would not fund the fences but urged Hungary to apply for money available for "border management."

In a written response to Orban, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also reminded the Hungarian leader that his country was the largest recipient of EU developments funds in terms of gross domestic product, with the 25 billion euros allocated in 2014-2020 totaling over 3 percent of Hungary's GDP.

EU mentions of the development funds have drawn strong responses from the Hungarian government, and Orban on Friday again made his position clear.

"There is no possibility to set the question of immigration as a precondition for the allocation or distribution of EU funds," said Orban, who has kept immigration on top of his political agenda since 2015. "Such a correlation is illegal."

Hungary has benefited greatly from EU membership, supported by a large majority of Hungarians, but Orban has compared EU bureaucrats in Brussels to Soviet-era apparatchiks and sees "unelected EU officials" as trying to stealthily increase their power over the member states.

The Hungarian government has also conducted several anti-EU campaigns, charging Brussels with trying to "colonize" Hungary and of disregarding Hungarians' support for Orban, who returned to power in 2010. In parliamentary elections expected in April 2018, Orban hopes to regain the two-thirds majority which allowed him in 2012 to introduce a new constitution.

Orban has set countries like Russia and Turkey as models for his efforts to turn Hungary into an "illiberal state," a concept that includes an increasingly dominant role for the state and little regard for the democratic system of checks and balances.

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