Hungary’s Prime minister Viktor Orban
There’s a need for ‘defensive lines’ to protect EU’s external borders, Hungarian leader said at summit on refugees.
VIENNA — Viktor Orbán on Saturday called on Europe to drop its arms embargo against Libya and empower a new government in Tripoli to fight both illegal migration and ISIL, the Hungarian prime minister’s latest controversial proposal to bring the refugee crisis under control.
Speaking after a summit on refugees in the Austrian capital, Orbán also repeated his call for the European Union to erect a “giant refugee city” in Libya, where asylum claims could be processed. Libya is one of the main gateways for refugees heading across the Mediterranean to Europe.
The Hungarian leader, the most outspoken critic of Europe’s refugee policies, appears to have won little immediate support for his suggestion. The provocative proposals seemed aimed at his detractors, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, who argue that Hungary’s hardline approach to the crisis will do little to solve it.
“These are not nice things, but these are necessary things,” Orbán said of the tight border controls and other measures Budapest has undertaken to keep migrants at bay.
“We see a completely different future for mankind” — Viktor Orbán
Leaders described Saturday’s discussion on new ways to tackle the crisis as both frank and to the point. In a role reversal, Merkel, who has often clashed with Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on economic issues, locked arms with him in urging a more progressive refugee policy.
Yet Austria and its Balkan allies were resolute in defending their tough measures.
“The usual Euro blah blah was out of the discussion,” Orbán said. “It was very Central European.”
European Council President Donald Tusk also joined the fray, saying on his way into the meeting that it was essential the Balkan route remain “closed for good.”
Orbàn cast the debate in stark terms, describing a fundamental philosophical divide in the EU between leaders who believe borders can be protected and those who think unfettered mobility is inevitable, even desirable.
“We see a completely different future for mankind,” he said.
Orbán’s comments underscored the continued tensions within Europe over how to combat the crisis. Though the situation has calmed over the past year — due both to the closure of the so-called Balkan route from Greece to Austria and the EU’s refugee pact with Turkey — leaders warned that it could explode again if Europe doesn’t take further steps.
“If we fail on this issue, if there’s no progress or if the Turkey deal collapses, then the European project of integration will face a massive test,” said Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, the summit’s host.
Kern, defending the cap Vienna has placed on new arrivals, noted that if the rest of the EU adopted the same ceiling as Austria, more than two million people could take refuge in Europe.
While the leaders at Saturday’s summit agreed the Balkan route should remain closed, they warned that a collapse of the EU’s refugee deal with Turkey remained the biggest threat and called for contingency plans if that happens.