Should the EU expel Hungary?

Hungary has violated the EU's basic values and should be expelled from the Union, Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn demanded on Tuesday. The country has attacked the independence of the press and the judiciary and is "not far from issuing orders to open fire on refugees", the minister stated. Commentators are divided on the issue of Hungary's refugee policy.

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Cyprus Mail (CY) /

Order to open fire on refugees not unrealistic

Asselborn's comment about Hungary not being far off from ordering soldiers to open fire on refugees may well become reality in Europe in a few years' time, columnist Gwynne Dyer fears in the Cyprus Mail:

“It's not just Hungarians who want to keep Muslim refugees out of the EU. Right-wing nationalists in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia and even Austria feel the same, and they dominate the governments in most of those countries. … The Hungarians may not start shooting refugees on their southern border this time around. It's still a quite minor problem: one or two million refugees in the European Union (pop. 500 million) is really only a drop in the ocean. But with time the number of refugees will grow, and politics everywhere is vulnerable to demagogues. In 30 years’ time, and perhaps much sooner, there may be shooting along all these borders.”

Magyar Idők (HU) /

Hungarian refugees were different in 1956

In his criticism of Hungary's refugee policy Asselborn referred to the hundreds of thousands of Hungarians who fled to Western Europe in 1956. This comparison with today's situation is outrageous, the pro-government daily Magyar Idők fumes:

“Let's consider the 6,000 Hungarians [taken in by Belgium] who fled the revolution and supposedly acted in the same way as today's 'war refugees'! The comparison falls short to the extent that they didn't cross European borders illegally but waited patiently in Austrian refugee camps for the Belgian government, after wise and thorough reflection, to decide to take them in. ... They didn't start raping Belgian women en masse, tearing down border fortifications, throwing stones, burning tires, making a collective din, or stopping drivers and robbing them of their possessions. On the contrary, they behaved themselves and integrated.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Asselborn playing right into Orbán's hands

The Austrian daily Die Presse sees Asselborn's statements as counterproductive:

“His comments via the megaphone of diplomacy have helped precisely the man he was hoping to hurt: Viktor Orbán. The populist calls from the grand duchy [Luxembourg] have forced his counterparts throughout Europe to make a show of solidarity with EU member Hungary. But above all Orbán can now exploit Asselborn's attack at home. In the run-up to the referendum on refugee quotas the prime minister has already been casting Brussels as the enemy. The calls for Hungary to be thrown out of the EU fit in nicely with his tales of an aloof Brussels elite that wants to keep Hungary in a minor role. … The EU would do well to confine itself to opening infringement proceedings if Hungary really does break the law - rather than threatening it with the most extreme measures right from the start, as Asselborn has done. In other words, Brussels should demonstrate the respect for the rule of law which is lacking in Hungary.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

Border fences have long since become mainstream

The threat of exclusion from the EU certainly won't prompt the Hungarian government to change its course, the daily paper taz observes:

“There is no legal basis for excluding an annoying member. Moreover Orbán has history on his side right now. A year ago his defensive stance vis-à-vis refugees, underpinned by border fences, was repulsive, but now it is practically mainstream. In the Visegrád group Hungary has a club of like-minded states that want to defend 'Christian occidental culture' against the Muslim onslaught. … [Bavaria's] CSU party has long since joined this club in terms of its thinking. Not to mention the openly xenophobic parties like the Front National, the AfD or the FPÖ. In a few years' time these parties may be in power or participate in government. Europe is shifting to the right. This trend can't be stopped by throwing out Hungary.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Czechs also infected by Orbánism

Asselborn's unprecedented criticism of Hungary hits the mark, Hospodářské noviny writes endorsing the Luxembourgian foreign minister's views and adding that the Czech Republic is also in peril:

“The EU's fate depends on its principles. It is not just an arena for economic cooperation but a community that shares values like solidarity, mutual aid and respect for transparency and the rule of law. … The Czech Republic is also tending towards populism on the migration issue. Our parliament has already discussed several times how to build fences and barricades on the border and how to equip the army so it can crack down on migrants. Things needn't go that far, particularly since migrants tend to avoid our country. But that doesn't mean we haven't also been infected by Orbánism. So we shouldn't be surprised if someone proposes kicking us out of the EU too now.”