Hungary grants Macedonia's ex-PM asylum

One week after escaping to Hungary, Macedonia's former prime minister Nikola Gruevski has been granted asylum there. In his home country he had been found guilty of corruption and sentenced to two years in prison. Further legal proceedings are pending. While some commentators agree that Gruevski should receive asylum, others don't know whether to laugh or cry.

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Magyar Idők (HU) /

Budapest just wants to help

The pro-government daily Magyar Idők counters accusations from the opposition camp that Hungary's refugee policy is contradictory:

“[Gruevski's] achievements alone don't grant him the right to receive refugee status in Hungary. ... Together with his former position, however, they are the reason why he is requesting it. And one may also rightly claim that the Macedonian citizen Nikola Gruevski is not just anyone. In that case it's Hungary's duty to check whether it can - and wants to - help him. ... Regardless of the refugee crisis, Hungary has always had a refugee policy and has always sought to help those who asked for help. ... The opposition press has used the media storm surrounding illegal migration to confuse the two issues.”

Webcafé (BG) /

A tale for national folklore

The tale of Gruevski's escape is something that could only happen in the Balkans, Webcafé scoffs:

“People used to joke that Europe ends where the toilets start to stink. It wasn't funny, but it was true. Now the joke would have to run: Europe's borders lie along the route taken by the diplomatic convoy that brought Nikola Gruevski from the door of Šutka prison in Skopje to Orbán in Budapest. This tale deserves to become part of the national folklore. ... But what will forever remain unexplained is why none of the security agencies in the neighbouring countries reacted when Macedonia's freshly convicted former prime minister waved to them with a white handkerchief as he drove by on his way to freedom.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Bad omen for the Balkans

The asylum granted to Gruevski in record time is an attack on the rule of law, Der Standard warns:

“The return of the rule of law to Macedonia represented the sole positive development in the entire region in recent years. ... Gruevski's successful flight is a serious setback for all those campaigning for judicial reform and transparency and an affront to the EU Commission. What remains to be explained is how the former leader, who had long since been stripped of his passport, was able to travel across Albania, Montenegro and Serbia without being stopped. Anyone who is even a little familiar with the case knows that he is a criminal. If it's true that Hungary issued him travel documents, it also shows how Orbán's influence over the Balkans has grown - a bad omen.”

Mérce (HU) /

Asylum laws don't apply for Orbán's friends

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán isn't usually this friendly towards migrants, comments Mérce:

“One of the spicy details of the case is that according to Hungary's stringent asylum procedures Gruevski crossed the border 'illegally', because he has no passport and should therefore have had to wait with other refugees in a transit zone on the border with Serbia for his asylum procedure to end. ... His friendship with Viktor Orbán goes back a long way. Like his Hungarian colleague, the Macedonian likes to divide society, brand his political opponents as traitors and badmouth George Soros.”

Népszava (HU) /

Budapest squirming

Gruevski's asylum request puts the Hungarian government in an awkward situation, Népszava comments:

“Hungary's justice minister must now decide whether Gruevski - who is considered the inventor of the 'stop Soros' campaign - will be extradited or whether the politician who's been found guilty of corruption and against whom four further proceedings are ongoing, will receive asylum. The jumbled communications coming from the cabinet and the governing Fidesz party show just how unpleasant this situation is for the Hungarian government. The Foreign Ministry is keeping mum, the Prime Minister's Office has signalled that this is a 'legal issue', and Fidesz's press spokesman has let it be known that 'Hungary gives protection to all those who are persecuted, and Nikola Gruevski is persecuted and menaced by the Macedonian government - which is under the influence of George Soros.”