Does Germany’s reversal on refugees vindicate Orbán?

On Sunday, Germany suspended the rules of the Schengen Area. The very underpinnings of the European Union, namely hindrance free travel within the zone, were shaken, with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government reintroducing varying degrees of border controls along Germany’s frontier with nine EU countries. The most stringent controls are between Germany and Austria and traffic jams extending four kilometres along the highway have been reported near Linz. Austria and Slovakia followed suit, both partially suspending free travel across national borders and Poland’s Prime Minister, Ewa Kopacz, warned of imminent border controls in Poland as well. The Schengen Area has unraveled in less than a day, even if only temporarily. Europeans may have to get re-accustomed to delays at border crossings and flashing their passport or other photo ID to border guards for the next two months, which is the maximum length of time that any member state can suspend its participation in the Schengen Area.

In an editorial appearing on the Deutsche Welle website, Kersten Knipp writes:

“The previous weeks’ practice of granting Syrian refugees asylum and allowing them unrestricted passage into Germany has failed. Over 60,000 people have arrived in Munich since the end of August alone – too many for the city – and too many for the country, which has lost control of the situation. Last night in Munich, refugees had to sleep in the train station for the first time. The “temporary” reintroduction of border controls is a de facto admission that while in theory the fundamental right to asylum knows no upper limit, in practice this limit is reached in a matter of days….One can only hope those in the Arab world see the proof that Germany has reached its limit. If not, Germany could go very quickly from praised to maligned in the eyes of countless Arabs.”

Initially, when I first read of German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere’s announcement on the suspension of Schengen rules, I was more inclined to think that this may be part of the German government’s strategy to pressure and ultimately pacify Eastern European countries that very much value the right of passport-free travel and easy access to Germany into finally accepting the principle of quotas and the fair distribution of Syrian refugees across the EU. After all, Chancellor Merkel used some strong-arm tactics just a couple of months ago with another “unruly” national leader in the southeast, namely Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. I now rather suspect that this is perhaps less part of a broader strategy, and more likely a genuine admission that Germany may have overestimated its ability to cope with an increasingly  acute crisis and flow of people who, in Munich, are now sleeping in railway stations. Images of Keleti pályaudvar in Budapest come to mind. 

Prominent members of the Orbán government in Hungary were quick to wag their finger at Germany and effectively say “I told you so.”

“The events of this past weekend have clearly proven that Viktor Orbán was right in terms of the migrant situation,” declared Antal Rogán, leader of Fidesz’s parliamentary caucus. “If Europe is not able to defend its external borders, then the most important EU freedom, Schengen and the free movement of people, including the free movement of Hungarians, is at risk,” he added.

Mr. Rogán believes that the Dublin regulation on asylum-seekers is dead, because only Hungary has been respecting it. The Fidesz politician called for a new international framework to replace the initial rules developed in 1990.

Meanwhile, Hungary is no longer registering any refugees crossing the border from Serbia, but is now simply putting them on dedicated trains or buses and taking them to the border with Austria without delay. Refugees are being transported primarily to the Szentgotthárd border crossing between Hungary and Austria. On the Hungarian side, there is a large industrial zone, and there is a similarly sized industrial area on the Austrian side, at Heiligenkreuz. The refugees are dropped off on the Hungarian side and are instructed to walk over into Austria. According to a report by Index journalists, both the reception camp in Röszke and Keleti railway station in Budapest have been nearly emptied out. Refugees were being transported all night between Sunday and Monday to Austria. 

Hungary is clearly trying to remove as many possible asylum-seekers as possible before September 15th, the day that state of emergency legislation comes into effect in Hungary. Additionally, the Orbán government is effectively fomenting a crisis situation in Austria by passing on record numbers of unregistered refugees.

Over 5,000 refugees have crossed into Hungary overnight and in the morning hours on Monday, which surpasses all previous records. By the late evening,  the number of refugees likely to cross into Hungary from Serbia will reach an estimated 20,000 people. Hungary is likely to do whatever it can to pack them on trains and buses, and pass them onto the Austrians without delay.

While this is all happening, Hungary is preparing with lightning speed for the state of emergency. Soldiers armed with weapons have now appeared along Hungary’s southern border, even though the only purpose of troops, initially, was to expedite the construction of the new barrier.

Armed Hungarian soldiers on the border with Serbia, in Röszke, on September 14th. Photo:Balázs Mohai / MTI.

Armed Hungarian soldiers on the border with Serbia, in Röszke, on September 14th. Photo:Balázs Mohai / MTI.

Prime Minister Orbán also appeared at the ceremonial oath of 863 new police officers in Budapest’s Heroes Square. He told the young officers, who have been plucked right out of school, before they even had a chance to complete their studies, that they are being taken to the border with Serbia, in order to assist the police officers and other authorities who are already on the frontier. As the liberal website points out, there is no tradition of Hungarian police officers making public, ceremonial oaths in Heroes Square. This is normally reserved for soldiers only.

But these are extraordinary times, as Mr. Orbán–clearly energized by the events of the past two days–emphasized.

“Underneath your uniform, you have a heart, and not just muscle. So use both,” he  told the young, newly-mined officers.

“History has kicked in the door on us,” said Mr. Orbán. “We do not want this massive movement of people to change Hungary. We envisage a different Hungarian and European future. We want to live in security, we don’t want chaos. And in times such as these, the role of the police increases,” added Mr. Orbán.

Those are ominous words, considering what may happen on Tuesday, when a state of emergency is likely formally declared.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Heroes Square on Monday. Photo: Szilárd Koszticsák.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Heroes Square on Monday. Photo: Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI.


  1. Avatar Charlie London says:

    Time to kick Hungary out of the EU period

  2. Things are out of control and changing very fast. Who is optimistic about them?

  3. Charlie London what is your problem with Hungary you liberal jerk?

  4. It seems that Hungary can do no right in these pages. If it registers the refugees and migrants, it’s harassing them, if it transfers them through (as they want), it’s fomenting a crisis in Austria. Greece, of course, also transfers them through because it too cannot handle such numbers. Austria cannot handle them and Germany now has reached a temporary limit. Moreover, German politicians have now also clearly stated that many of the new arrivals are economic migrants, not refugees–which is obvious when one sees that they are cherry picking their destination countries, not simply seeking a safe harbor. But safe harbor is all that is called for by international law, as Orban has repeatedly pointed out–a provision that the Germans will also attempt to enforce. I’m sorry, but a lot of the criticism of Orban originates with a fundamental repulsion that people have to him, and not on the basis of his positions. Borders are closing all around Europe and as a front line state Hungary has a particularly acute problem. If the law were being followed, actual asylum seeking refugees would remain either in Turkey, where they are safe, or at most in Greece. The EU has simply not dealt with this problem until now–it could have invested more in the refugee camps in the Middle East years ago, it could have pressured Russia to help find a political solution years ago, and it could have put into place a reasonable and sustainable asylum plan for Syrian refugees at any time in the past few years, as this has been a simmering crisis for a long, long time. Also, as an American I want to state clearly that the US is failing miserably in its obligations–each and every Iraqi and Afghani refugee deserves to be accepted into the asylum system in the US. We took a million Vietnamese after the war, which was at the time seen as a moral obligation. I really think that the obsessive focus on Orban is a distraction. The migrants and refugees are going to bypass Hungary soon enough and the problem will remain unsolved.

    • ” If the law were being followed, actual asylum seeking refugees would remain either in Turkey, where they are safe, or at most in Greece”

      These two countries would simply collapse if they would be asked to handle the issue by themselves. Obviously such a law is broken by design.

      All the naive EU humanitarian laws have roots in the WW2, they were written in the mental atmosphere that prevailed just after the WW2. And at that time no-one was able to foresee this kind of invasion. And no-one was able to see that terrorism and pure evilness could grow and raise under the cloak of any belief-system.

      It even seems that the “islamic state” terror organization was created only because the EU laws require that refugee-status can be issued only when a person is under the threat of persecution.

      It is simply a total invasion of EU what is going on. Well crafted I must admit and well executed. It will end up in a religious war and EU will suffer, very severely.

  5. Dear Giles,

    Thank you for the great response. I totally agree with your opinion and frankly, it is better written than the article itself. Keep posting!

  6. Greetings from Finland,

    Please stay firmly on the course, Hungary! Use the force, when necessary.

    PM Viktor Orbán has shown wisdom, courage and true heroism and due to his example some other EU nations are now (cautiously) following his example.

    Even the membership in EU is worth of absolutely nothing when compared to the eventual fate of losing the fatherland to illegal muslim invaders.

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