by Simon Kent
Hungary is not interested in moralising EU “lectures” on compulsory
migrant quotas and defends its rejection of more Middle Eastern refugees
on the basis that it wants nothing to do with the West’s past “failed
experiments” in multiculturalism.
The country’s tough stand is a direct riposte to one of Brussel’s
most senior bureaucrats who scolded Hungarian prime minister Viktor
Orban for erecting border fences designed to frustrate migrants
transiting the country on their way to the rest of Europe.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans warned on
Thursday that Central European countries have “no experience with
diversity,” making them susceptible to fears about Muslim refugees. If
no sustainable solution is found “you will see a surge of the extreme
right across the European continent,” Timmermans said on BBC Radio 4.
Timmermans, in the BBC interview, said Central Europe must adapt to
the demographic changes while singling out Hungary for special mention.
“Any society, anywhere in the world, will be diverse in the future —
that’s the future of the world,” Timmermans said. “So [Central European
countries] will have to get used to that. They need political leaders
who have the courage to explain that to their population instead of
playing into the fears as I’ve seen Mr Orbán doing in the last couple of
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph,
Mr Orban’s spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, said integration in much of
Western Europe had been anything but a resounding success and Hungary,
he said, felt neither the wish nor the obligation to follow suit.
“Contrary to Mr Timmerman’s vision, we can’t see into the future,” Mr
Kovács said. “But we are aware of the past, and multi-culturalism in
Western Europe has not been a success in our view. We want to avoid
making the same mistakes ourselves.”
On Wednesday European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s plan
for EU states to spread 120,000 asylum seekers across the 28-member
bloc was pushed through
by a qualified majority vote. In came in the teeth of eastern
opposition from Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Both
Hungary and Slovakia have threatened legal challenges to the ruling.
“Mr Timmermans is right that we have not had the same experience as
Western Europe, where countries like Holland, Britain and France have
had mass immigration as a result of their colonial legacies,” added Mr
Kovács. “But we would like to deal with our problems in a way that suits
“And we especially don’t like it when people who have never lived in
Hungary try to give us lectures on how we should cope with our own
problems. Calling us racists or xenophobes is the cheapest argument.
It’s used just to dodge the issues.”
According to the Telegraph, Mr Kovács comments came
after Hungary’s ambassador to London, Péter Szabadhegy, claimed common
cause with Britain on the issue. In a briefing to British journalists
last week, he said the British public had been jamming the switchboard
of Hungary’s embassy to London in support of Budapest’s controversial
stance. Of the 300 phone calls, emails and letters that were reaching
the embassy’s Belgravia HQ every day, 70 per cent described Hungary’s
actions as “God’s gift to Europe.” The rest were mostly insults such as
Reiterating Hungary’s opposition to quotas, Mr Szabadhegy said: “We
don’t think it’s the right priority. If you have a burst pipe in your
house, it is like worrying which rooms the water is going into instead
of fixing the pipe.”