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EU to study Hungary border compensation request, but Hungary should recognize solidarity is two-way-street

Minister Overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister János Lázár announced Thursday that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had sent a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, requesting that the EU pay Hungary some EUR 400 million, roughly half of what the Hungarian government claims it spent building the electrified border fence and other similar expenses.

Orbán's letter to Juncker comes on the heels of an announcement by the European Commission that it will provide financial aid to those countries most affected by the migration crisis, such as Italy and Greece. Lázár said Hungarian law enforcement and military personnel had responded to the crisis by protecting Europe's borders, and the European Union should foot at least half the bill.

According to Lázár, "[the EU should] not only talk about solidarity, its solidarity should also be seen in action."

The EU said Friday it was ready to study Hungary's request to be reimbursed for defending Europe's external borders against illegal immigration but urged Budapest again to admit asylum seekers.

The European Commission, the executive of the 28-nation European Union, said Hungary has already received EU financial and practical support to protect the bloc's external borders.

"If Hungary is now requesting additional support, the Commission is ready quickly to examine such a request and provide the appropriate assistance, if the situation so requires," a Commission spokeswoman told AFP.

Hungary's request for a contribution towards the cost of its border fence to keep out migrants was a welcome demonstration of commitment to European solidarity, but solidarity had to be reciprocal, a German government spokesman said on Friday.

"We welcome that Hungary demands solidarity and recognizes solidarity as a European principle," Steffen Seibert said. "But solidarity is a two way street."

Meanwhile the government has prolonged the illegal migration state of crisis by six months from September 7 until March 8, 2018 at the recommendation of the Minister of Interior, government spokesman Zoltán Kovács has announced.

Kovács told Hungarian state news agency MTI that Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér proposed last week that the government should extend the state of crisis. Kovács stressed that the terror threat in Europe had increased as a result of mass migration, and therefore strict monitoring of the borders is still required for the safety of the Hungarian people.

Budapestbeacon.com, an online news publication contacted the Ministry of Interior to request exact statistics about illegal border crossings during the state of crisis to determine whether the extension is warranted. According to the ministry's surprisingly swift answer, since mid-September, 2015 some 209,713 illegal border crossers have been apprehended, 14,287 detained and escorted back to the border, and 40,411 repelled. (It is not clear what the ministry means by "repelled", megakadályozás in Hungarian, and the Beacon has requested more specific definitions of these terms.)

But broken down year by year, the data paints a very different picture of migration trends through Hungary.

During the peak of the migration crisis – between September 18 and December 31, 2015 – some 189,417 people crossed the border illegally and were apprehended by authorities. In 2016, when the border fence was already standing on Hungary's southern border blocking the Balkan migration route, the total number of illegal border crossers shrank to 19,222. This year, as of August 29, only 1,074 illegal border crossers were apprehended by authorities. The number of detentions and those repelled at the border also decreased dramatically this year compared to the previous years.

In answer to another question, the Ministry of Interior revealed that since September 15, 2015, the Immigration and Asylum Office registered 37,237 applications for asylum, out of which 1,247 were accepted.

Beacon has also asked the ministry how many times it had learned of a planned terrorist act directly threatening Hungary. The ministry's answer is telling: "Since the initiation of the state of crisis, the Counter Terrorism Centre (TEK) has not learned of any information indicating an act of terror threatening Hungarian citizens or Hungary. Europe's terror threat is well-known."

The extension of the state of crisis until March 8 comes as Hungary faces a general election next April or May.

Source: budapestbeacon.com; AFP, Reuters

Last Updated on Sunday, 03 September 2017 15:15

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