Sometimes, politics can get quite… personal. The latest exchange in the clash of the EU and Hungary seems to have reached the point where the players in the drama are involved to the maximum. Neither President of the European Commission (unelected) Jean-Claude Juncker, nor Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (elected) are backing down on the issue of immigration.

Juncker seems to have accepted immigration as inevitable, and seems to have taken the position that sharing the burden of immigration through means of quota is the way forward. This he calls ‘solidarity’ in a letter to Orbán. In it, Juncker writes that:

Indeed, the protection of the external borders of the Union is a matter of common concern, identified as a priority in our Migration Agenda since 2015, and the Commission is assisting all Member States in the protection of the Union’s external borders and the management of migratory flows.

So far, so good. To have a European Union without borders, the outer borders of the Schengen-Area have to be protected – and it would be logical for all the Schengen countries to help pay the countries on those outer borders for border protection. Because in exchange they don’t need to protect their own borders, and obviously the free travel has many (economic) benefits. But when Junckers uses words like ‘solidarity’ and ‘management of migratory flows’, what does he mean? Well, in the very next sentence he writes:

In fact, in 2015, when Hungary was affected by the refugee crisis, the Commission proposed that an emergency relocation scheme would apply to Hungary, alongside Italy and Greece. Hungary, however, decided to reject this offer of concrete solidarity, declining the possibility to benefit from relocation of up to 54.000 persons and decided to return nearly 4 million Euro of EU funds pre-paid by the Commission to Hungary. Subsequently, Hungary has challenged the validity of the Council decisions on relocation before the Court of Justice.

That’s not protecting the borders. The only ‘management of migratory flows’ accomplished by this plan is giving ‘refugees’ a free pass into Europe. And never mind that the relocation plan is failing and failing hard. The EU, in the shape of Juncker, is just completely unwilling to help countries that receive immigrants separate the wheat from the chaff. It loses billions of Euros on a deal with Turkey, but when Hungary ask it to pay half of its expenses for what is a very effective means of dealing with unasked, unwanted immigration, Juncker gets all high and mighty.

I would also like to note that, in addressing the refugee crisis, Hungary has been able to rely on other forms of operational and financial support from the Commission and EU Agencies. In 2014-2015, Hungary received three emergency grants amounting to 6.26 million euro. I regret that, given the modest implementation rate by Hungary of these three grants, only around 33% of the funds were used and the unused funds were lost. To support the protection of external borders, Hungary should also rely on the EU funding already allocated under the national envelope of the Internal Security Fund “Borders”, amounting to more than 40 million euro for the period 2014-2020.

To put this into perspective:

Between 2007 and this year, Turkey was allocated roughly €4.8 billion, which is more than 40 percent of the EU’s Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance fund’s (IPA) allocations. Of that, €2.68 billion was committed and €2.19 billion paid out. A further €1.65 billion has been allocated since 2014 but has not yet been paid out. Because the country is somehow still a candidate-member, it seems quite possible they will receive even more money in the future.

Adding insult to injury, Juncker mentions “other forms of assistance“, namely the fact that

the European Border and Coast Guard provides active operational support to Hungary with the deployment of currently 20 European border guards at the border sections with Serbia. At this stage, to the
Commission’s knowledge, the European Border and Coast Guard has not received any request from Hungary to increase this contingent.

Of course, Orbán wrote back:

First of all, I am pleased to note that you also recognise Hungary’s effort in border protection. In the past two years, Hungary has defended our common borders by mobilising budget resources, by building a protective fence, and by placing thousands of border-hunters into active duty.

Compare thát to Brussel’s measly 20 border guards. Orbán continues by reiterating Hungary’s view on its responsibilities with regards to its position on the Schengen border:

Hungary should always behave as a country where there are Schengen borders, but for geographical reasons, migrants can only enter the country if they have crossed the borders of the EU in other member states; mainly in Greece. For this reason, Hungary has not taken part and does not want to take part in projects that do not make this issue evident.

This paragraph points out something Juncker does not address: the fact that, in contradiction to EU Law, some migrants have taken it upon themselves to start the relocation process. Apparently, taking “management of migratory flows” isn’t really that high on the agenda. A point Orbán hammers home later on in the letter, when he says that he was:

… stunned and puzzled to read that you and the European Commission refuse to provide funds for the fence. I am convinced that those who do not support the fence cannot and do not want to protect the citizens of the European Union. It is impossible to defend ourselves against the numerous illegal border crossing attempts without setting up physical obstacles. If instead of defending our borders, the European Commission is willing to finance solely measures and organisations that aim to facilitate the admission of migrants, then we will only give new incentives to hundreds of thousands of migrants who wish to move to Europe, instead of curbing migration.

This seems to be a valid point: in order to control migration, it is necessary to distinguish between those who, according to the law, can claim asylum and those who cannot. If there is no effective way to deport those that cannot claim asylum, the only solution is to effectively keep them out of the Schengen Area. This is exactly what Hungary is attempting to do – and with some success. By doing this, Hungary is protecting not just – or maybe more accurately, not mainly – Hungary itself, but Austrian, German and other European citizens as well. For all his talk about ‘solidarity’, Junckers shows with this letter, and not for the first time, that his brand of solidarity is not with European citizens. It is not with refugees.
If Brussels keeps leaning on the Visegrád countries, we might see more than just a Brexit in the near future.

To close it off, Orbán bluntly states that:

“The interpretation of the principle of solidarity described in your letter is in essence the transformation of Hungary into an immigrant country, against the will of the Hungarian citizens. ln my view, this is not solidarity, this is violence.”