Washington, DC—The European Union continues to be at a crossroads. Although the EU’s antecedent, the European Coal and Steel Community, was formed to unify Europe after disastrous world wars, today’s growing nationalist inclinations are testing the EU and its ability to maintain European solidarity. Hungary specifically stands out as a member nation that prioritizes its sovereignty over EU supranationalism. The country’s leaders, including Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, argue that current problem-solving measures pursued by leadership in Brussels have failed to combat challenges afflicting Europe, particularly immigration.
Nationalism in the EU
Minister Szijjártó asserted at a Meridian International press event held last week that only by strengthening individual EU member states can issues plaguing Europe’s political and economic union—namely immigration, energy dependency, war, terrorism, and a Britain-less EU—be solved. Szijjártó viewed that a loose federalist assembly of nations, as the EU currently stands, does nothing for Europe. Rather, the minister espoused that strong and nationalistic states make a strong EU, maintaining his status as a “fierce defender” of Hungarian sovereignty within the European framework.
“[The Fidesz] is a party which believes in the phenomenon that it is the people who have to make a decision about the future of a given country,” Szijjártó argued. “In [the] European Union, unfortunately, there’s an endeavor to lecture everybody all around the world.”
Views on Migration
Migration is one of the largest topics that Hungary and Brussels clash over. Hungary maintains a hard stance on immigration and refugee admittance, viewing migration as a security threat. In contrast to international organizations such as the United Nations, Szijjártó rejected the idea that migration is a human right or “a clear contribution to global wealth and…to inclusive growth,” by linking immigration to terrorism.
“Migratory flocks, which we have witnessed in the past three years, gave the opportunity for terrorist organizations and their activists to go through borders with no control,” Szijjártó maintained. “During the last three years, there were 29 terrorist attacks committed by persons with migratory backgrounds, killing 330 plus people.”
When asked for alternative solutions for individuals fleeing conflict, Szijjártó prescribed financial backing to nations that neighbor war-torn areas. Rather than encouraging refugees to pass through multiple countries en route to Germany, Szijjártó argued that EU nations should send funds to nations such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey to ensure refugees find asylum in the nearest safe country.
Szijjártó’s immigration comments contrast dramatically with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) sentiments outlined in a press release published May 29, the day before Szijjártó spoke at the press event. Following Pascale Moreau, Director of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau, “seeking asylum is a fundamental human right, it is not a crime.” In the document, the UNHCR calls on the Hungarian government to withdraw legislation that would further restrict organizations wishing to humanitarianly help individuals seeking asylum and international protection in Hungary.
Though many view Hungary’s stance on immigration as a lost opportunity to alleviate their European compliance issues from rejecting the obligatory quota system, Hungarian leaders feel justified in their migratory exclusions. This is because Hungary’s southern border is also the European Union’s exterior border. By fencing its southern border using national funds, as Szijjártó argued, Hungary protects the entire European Union. Thus, Hungarians view their border control as their special case of compliance—even though the European Union did not ask for such measures, but rather to uphold the quota system.
Hungarian-EU relations reflect the various paradoxes and conflicting forces that confront nations in foreign and domestic affairs. The struggle between national security and global humanitarianism and the tradeoff between sovereignty and supranationalism causes one to question if Hungary’s migratory position will further divide the European Union and chip away at regional unity. If current events are any indicator, Europe is becoming less of a “United States of Europe,” as Szijjártó described the European Union, and more of a divided region.