‘Dictator,’ ‘Idiot’: Tempers Flare Over Hungary’s Anti-Migrant Campaign

By Patrick Goodenough | February 22, 2018 | 4:27am EST
Mideast migrants cross a stretch of wasteland between Hungary and Austria in 2015. (Photo: UNHCR/Mark Henley)

(CNSNews.com) – Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, has called his counterpart from Luxembourg an “idiot” who wants to “flood” Europe with migrants, illustrating again a widening rift between the country’s populist government and the liberal European establishment over immigration policies.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, had earlier likened Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to a “dictator,” in response to his government’s campaign targeting NGOs that support asylum-seekers.

Asselborn also urged the European Union to punish Hungary by triggering a far-reaching provision of E.U. law that could led to suspension of a member-state’s voting rights.

Responding to the criticism of his government, Szijjarto said in a statement Asselborn had “crossed all possible boundaries” and clearly “hates Hungary.”

Szijjarto charged that Asselborn, who he lumped with the Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist George Soros, wants to “flood” Europe and Hungary with migrants.

“Jean Asselborn is an idiot, but the Hungarians are not,” he said. “The people of Hungary have no need of the Luxembourgian foreign minister’s crazy ideas to know what’s good for them.”

Szijjarto said the government was working to protect the country’s security while “extremist liberals” like Asselborn and Soros want to demolish Hungary’s security fence. The government erected the barrier along Hungary’s southern border in 2015 to stop a flow of migrants from mostly Mideast and African countries.

The flare-up comes ahead of elections in April which Orbán’s populist Fidesz party is expected to win easily.

In a weekend state of the nation speech, Orbán painted Hungary and its allies as a last line of defense against Muslims wanting to inundate the continent in pursuit of “the conversion of Europe to what it calls the true faith.”

In contrast, “the great old European nations in Western Europe have become immigrant countries,” he said. “Day by day their cultural foundations are being transformed, the population raised in a Christian culture is declining, and the major cities are undergoing Islamization.”

Orbán charged that “politicians in Brussels, Berlin and Paris” want Hungary to adopt policies which in their own countries “opened the way for the decline of Christian culture and the expansion of Islam.”

Nationalist opposition was coming not just from Hungary, he said, but from its partners in the Visegrad Four group – Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Orbán also suggested that Austria, Croatia and the German state of Bavaria were moving in the right direction and that Italy’s elections next month could bring that country onboard if the party of the populist former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wins.

Orbán’s government accuses Soros of wanting to flood Europe with millions of refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

The Hungarian-American financier has denied the allegations, accusing the government of trying to “create an outside enemy,” to divert attention away from issues such as healthcare and education.

A draft bill under consideration, dubbed the “Stop Soros” law, builds on controversial legislation passed last summer that targets NGOs who receive foreign funding.

The earlier legislation is being challenged by the E.U. Commission in the European Court of Justice, but the new proposals go further.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. (Photo: Botár Gergely/Hungarian Foreign Ministry)

NGOs identified as “supporting migration” would be required to apply for a permit from the interior ministry, a process that could take months. Those determined to pose a “national security risk” could be outlawed.

Any foreign funding determined to be promoting migration would incur a 25 percent tax.

A spokesman for the U.N. human rights apparatus on Friday called the draft law an “assault on human rights” and said the proposed tax would likely lead to reduced budgets,  “thereby undermining NGOs’ ability to carry out their activities and services.”

‘Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right’

Szijjarto told reporters on Tuesday that anyone who criticizes the “Stop Soros” bill is questioning the right of the government to take sovereign decisions.

He said NGOs promoting migration and open borders were acting against Hungary’s national security interests, and it was the government’s duty to respond.

A senior official at the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR urged Hungarian lawmakers to reject the proposed bill.

“Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right,” Montserrat Feixas Vihé, UNHCR’s Central Europe regional representative, said in a statement Friday.

“People should have access to seek protection and no one should be punished for helping those who seek asylum.”

The E.U. mechanism which Luxembourg’s Asselborn is recommending that the E.U. institutes against Hungary is Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union.

Sometimes dubbed the “nuclear option,” it provides for suspension of voting rights for a member-state deemed to have committed a “serious and persistent breach” of E.U. norms and values. No country has yet lost its voting rights under the mechanism.

Getting it implemented would be an uphill battle for advocates: it would need to be endorsed by a two-thirds majority in the European Parliament as well as four-fifths of the members of the “European Council,” a group comprising the heads of state of the 28 member-states plus two top E.U. officials.

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