Despite a decrease in irregular crossings via the EU’s eastern borders, the chief advisor to the Hungarian Prime Minister has criticised the EU’s migration policies while calling for additional funds for border security. While the European Parliament has adopted a resolution expressing “strong concern” about the further erosion of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary, the Hungarian government has rejected requests to amend its policies on migration and LGBTQ+ rights in exchange for money. Meanwhile, the UNHCR has urged Hungary to finalise the work on the asylum and migration pact during its upcoming presidency of the Council of the E U.
The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) noted a “significant increase” in the number of irregular crossings to Europe, which reached approximately 380’000 in 2023. However, it noted a 12% decrease in irregular crossings through the EU’s eastern borders. According to Frontex, 5608 migrants, mainly from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Syria, crossed the eastern borders to enter the Schengen zone. Chief Security Advisor to Hungary’s Prime Minister, György Bakondi, discussed the recent increase in “illegal migration” in Europe during a televised interview in which he stated that: “While Hungarian authorities have seen a decrease in border violations and human trafficking at their southern border due to Serbian law enforcement actions, there are bottlenecks in southern Serbia and on the Balkan route as migrants attempt alternative paths toward countries like Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, and Romania”. He also criticised the EU’s migration policy, particularly the proposed quota system claiming it “undermines national sovereignty” and added that Hungarian authorities are “seeking greater EU financial support for border security” while calling “for active EU involvement, not just reliance on individual countries like Slovakia, Austria, or Turkey to assist with border protection.” In a meeting with his Austrian counterpart, the Hungarian foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, stated that his country expects Austria’s support in fighting illegal migration highlighting “the necessity of a political shift in Brussels to effectively manage illegal migration”.
On 15 January, Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Relations, Zoltan Kovacs, shared “good news” on X that the European Commission (EC) had disbursed € 140.1 million (approximately 53.2 billion forints) to Hungary as part of the pre-financing for the REPowerEU energy security funds under the EU’s Recovery and Restoration Facility following the initial pre-financing of € 779.5 million that had been disbursed on 28 December. Kovacs added that he was “Glad to see that Brussels finally saw reason and gave Hungary the funds the Left tried to take away from the people.” Three days after the “good news, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution by a large majority denouncing the EC’s recent decision to unfreeze € 10.2 billion of funding for Hungary, despite the latter’s continuous breaches of the rule of law and failure to respect conditionality rules regarding the Charter of Fundamental Rights which “threaten the EU’s founding values, institutions and funds.” The EP has called on the European Council to determine whether Hungary has committed “serious and persistent breaches of EU values.” It has also condemned the EC’s decision to unfreeze funds for Hungary despite the Orban government’ssystemic discriminatory practices against academia, journalists, political parties, civil society and minorities, and called on its Committee on Legal Affairs to launch a legal action against the EC. In light of these issues, the EP has also questioned Hungary’s ability to fulfil its duties if the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, resigns before the summer so that he can be a candidate in the upcoming EP elections. In addition, following the EC’s decision to unfreeze funding in December, Hungary can now receive allocations from the Border Management and Visa Instrument, the Internal Security Fund, and the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. However, as it does not yet fulfil the horizontal enabling conditions in the areas of asylum and return, it cannot receive funding for these types of actions.
Hungary’s Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Relations has called these actions an attempt to “blackmail” the Hungarian government “into compliance on LGBTQ and migration, abusing EU funds”. He said: “In April 2022, almost 4 million Hungarians opted to protect children from gender ideology and efforts to include sex education in curricula and media content available to minors. Hungarian voters also stood up for the inalienable right of parents to decide on the sexual education of their children. With the never-ending witch hunt against Hungary, Brussels is spinning this into a debate on whether the law is “anti-gay,” when, the truth is, it is not “anti-anything.” Instead, it’s strictly pro-children and pro-family.” Kosacs added: “We will not let Hungary become a country of immigrants, and we will always protect our right to decide who we want to let into our country”, concluding his blog post with “I’m sorry, Mrs. von der Leyen, but a compromise on these two issues will not be possible at this time”.
On the same day as the EP adopted its resolution, the Hungarian government outlined its policy positions for the coming year. On the topic of migration in relation to the release of EU funds, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, Gergely Gulyás said “Hungary does not wish to accept migrants, and a referendum was already held on this matter”, emphasising that this means “Hungary’s stance reflects the public’s will.” Prime Minister Victor Orban echoed Gulyás’ words underlining that: “No amount of money would make us allow migrants into Hungary”. Regarding LGBTQ+ issues, Gulyás emphasised that as as the case with the issue of migration, “Hungarian voters also stood against LGBTQ+ propaganda in the child protection referendum”, adding that any pressure by Brussels is useless since “Hungarian voters have already made a decision about these topics.”
Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called on Hungary to use its presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of the year, to finalise the New Pact on Migration and Asylum in order to “ensure the adequate implementation of norms protecting the human rights of those seeking asylum” in EU Member States. “The UNHCR hopes that this Pact will be a step in the right direction to implement precisely this aspect, and thereby calls on the EU Presidencies to mobilise the necessary political will as the Pact enters its final and crucial phase and calls on all Member States to act with courage in the interest of refugees”, UNHCR representative for EU Affairs, Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, said.
For further information:
- ECRE, EU Eastern Borders: European Commission Allocates Over € 250 Million for Migration and Border Security; EU Funding for Hungary Unblocked Amid Concerns Over Human Rights; Newly Elected Polish Prime Minister Receives EU Support Despite Using Anti-migrant Rhetoric in Elections Campaign, December 2023
- ECRE, EU Eastern Borders: Member States Approve Extension of Temporary Protection for Ukrainians, Crisis Package Agreed by Council Despite Poland and Hungary Veto, Lithuania to Install Physical Barriers in Marshy Border Areas with Belarus and Russia, October 2023