Author: HARVEY GAVIN
HUNGARY and Poland have dug in their heels over the European Union’s plans to settle refugees across the bloc and demanded member states have the final say over who enters their countries – not Brussels.
Newly re-elected Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban stood shoulder to shoulder with his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki to oppose the EU’s migrant quota system, with they branded an assault on national sovereignty.
Both leaders said they had instead opted to help people in Africa the Middle East, or those in need closer to their respective countries, insisting this approach was a more effective long-term solution to the migrant crisis.
EU leaders have agreed to relocate around 160,000 migrants out of a total of more than two million who arrived in Europe since 2015.
Both Mr Orban and Mr Morawiecki were elected on anti-immigration platforms, and their decision to oppose the EU’s plans has put them at odds with Brussels.
The Polish leader said: “Here in Poland, it’s we who decide who will come to Poland and who will not.
“Proposals by the European Union that impose quotas on us hit the very foundations of national sovereignty.”
He reiterated his commitment to help those affected by war or poverty but said Poland’s assistance would take the form of providing aid where the problems are, not accepting refugees.
He added: “In this matter, our national sovereignty is fundamental for us.”
Speaking after meeting with the Polish leader, Mr Orban said: “We also have hearts, we do not have stones instead of hearts. We are a Christian people.
“We know what commitments are, what it means to help.
“But we cannot help anyone if we destroy our country in the meantime.”
Mr Orban campaigned on a nationalist, anti-immigration platform and used a fiery pre-election speech in February to paint Hungary as a bastion of Christianity which would defend Europe against “Islamic expansion”.
He told supporters the bloc risks being “overrun” by mass immigration and claimed his government had “prevented the Islamic world from flooding us”.
He went on to single out immigration from Africa as potentially leading to “our worst nightmares coming true”.
His right-wing populist government was responsible for erecting a double razor wire fence on its border in 2015 at the height of the migrant crisis, in what later became a symbol of the anti-migration sentiment in parts of Europe.