“Hungary, live” – Attacks on Hungary due to the country’s handling of the refugee crisis

Original title: Magyarország élőben – Támadások a menekültválság kezelése miatt [Hungarian video of a live broadcast]
Publication: Hír TV/mno.hu Date: 07:03 08/09/2015

[Please note: This is the transcription of a Hungarian TV Channel’s broadcast, “Hungary, live” which originally was aired at 9pm, 07/09/2015. The transcription is edited and translated by refugeecrisisinhungary.wordpress.com.]

Hír TV [Hungarian TV-channel – transl.], Hungary, live broadcast: Attacks on Hungary due to the country’s handling of the refugee crisis

In the international news and statements by international politicians, Hungary has become the black sheep of the European Union. They charge Hungary with violation of European Union law and failure to respect human rights.

Guests in the newsroom:
István Szent-Iványi, former Ambassador to Hungary in Slovenia
Csaba Mohi, former Ambassador to Hungary in Algeria

(Journalist:) This was a weekend of structural mistakes. We could witness the failures of EU law in the practice of many countries, and we could follow the politicians’ tricks to buy time, i.e., statements about who acted and who did not and why.

István Szent-Iványi: Unfortunately, Hungary’s own separate refugee policy failed: we cannot handle it on our own; we must co-operate with others. This is not a problem in itself. We should have established this co-operation in the first place, because we can tackle the problem only if we work together with Germany, Austria and other countries. The Hungarian authorities made a huge mistake: they taught the refugees not to co-operate with them, because those who obey do not know what will happen to them, whilst those who refuse to co-operate can reach their aim and are transferred to Austria on buses – this is what we can see at Röszke at the moment. That is the biggest problem, because it is in our interest to find a solution together with the refugees, so that they understand that co-operation with the authorities is a must to reach their aim, and that those who refuse to co-operate will not reach it.

MTI photo - Edvárd Molnár
MTI photo: Edvárd Molnár

Csaba Mohi: First, we have to know what their interests and motivations are. In the last few days, European and Hungarian politics suffered many slaps in the face. There are huge misunderstandings. These migrants [sic] arrive in Hungary from two Schengen countries, Italy or Greece. According to Dublin III Regulation they need to be registered in the first European country they arrive in. Then please, do so! It is unfair to blame us when it is their outrageous omission.

If the Hungarians try to register them and do not let them continue their journey, that is the problem; if the authorities let them go without registration, then that is the problem…

István Szent-Iványi: The problem is that we let the situation escalate to this point. We set off on the wrong foot, and that is why we can see an enormous suspicion toward Hungary’s every action. There are three kinds of judgments: justified, unfounded and exaggerations. Hungary’s duty is to register the refugees, and that is what we need to achieve in co-operation with them. They have to understand that this is in their interest, too. They must be processed. There is no European country where they could achieve refugee status without registration. The problem is that there is no effective communication between the government and the refugees.

The fence on the border is clear enough: we do not want you here.

István Szent-Iványi: Yes, but this is completely contrary to basic European values and the commitments made by Hungary in the frame of the UN Geneva Convention and the Dublin Regulation. In these documents, Hungary promised to give shelter to refugees.

MTI photo: Balázs Somorjai
MTI photo: Balázs Somorjai

But are they genuine refugees? They are difficult to register, to identify, they throw away their documents: their make their identity strangely unclear. Both the Germans and the Austrians call upon Hungary to respect EU law, while on the weekend they did not respect it, and waived it, saying that it was a humanitarian emergency.

Csaba Mohi: I admit and also see that it was a mistake to have such a wavering migration policy in Hungary. Each decision conflicted with the previous ones: buses can go, buses cannot go, where do they go – we said they were three thousand, then ten thousand came… We cannot make decisions this way. In 2007, the European Council stated that a common migration policy had to be developed because a massive refugee wave could arrive, hitting Hungary with the most force. Since then, nothing has happened.

Viktor Orbán said at the conference of the ambassadors: an external intervention cannot result in a member State forcibly changing its cultural or ethnic composition. Can we say that that is why we do not want to accept more refugees?

István Szent-Iványi: At this very moment, yes, we still can, because there are no quotas to respect. But if a decision is made with the qualified majority in favour of the quota system, we will be able to do so only by suffering sanctions or leaving the EU. Still, even if we have to accept ten to fifteen thousand people, that does not mean that the ethnic composition of the country will change. We know that the number of the Chinese people living currently in Hungary is higher than the number of the refugees we would have to take, and the ethnic image of the country did not change because of them, either.

Viktor Orbán said at the conference of the ambassadors: the Hungarian government is considering the quota system, but with certain conditions. The government does not refuse to discuss it, but rather it is just the timing that raises the problem. “As long as we are unable to protect Europe’s external borders, it is not worth talking about the destiny of those who stream in”.

Csaba Mohi: This is not the way to address the problem. When the delegation came home from Brussels, Hungary was the only member State out of the twenty-eight, who refused to accept one single refugee. Our politicians negotiate abroad as if they were in Hungary. But there, they do not have a two-thirds majority [as in the Hungarian Parliament – trans.]; they barely have one twenty-eighth, and even this one twenty-eighth is weak because in last few years we have managed to get everybody angry with us. We do not have allies. We cannot send such messages to Angela Merkel to do this or do that; Mr. Lázár tells the German Embassy to go to Keleti Railway Station and make order. No, this is not diplomacy; this is surliness.

Do you think the quota system can resolve the problem in the EU if, once they are given refugee status, these people can go wherever they want to?

Csaba Mohi: The refugee status entitles them to resettle, work and receive social benefits only in the designated country. If they leave this country, they lose their refugee status. Evasion is of course always possible, but it is not easy.

The government argues that Schengen borders must be protected. Is closing the borders the only way?

Csaba Mohi: For the time being, there is no such agreement. We have Schengen duties. Our migrants should have been registered by Italy or Greece. Please protest against this. Everybody has as many rights as they speak up for and claim. It is helpless politics here. And in Brussels, too.

What might explain the resignation of Csaba Hende as Minister of Defence?

István Szent-Iványi: He resigned right after the emergency conference; thus, there is certainly a connection with that. I suppose he does not agree with the government’s conception.

Was it a good decision in the given situation?

István Szent-Iványi: It is an issue of conscience. If the minister feels that he cannot accept it any longer, then that is what he had to do.

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