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Brussels won’t pay for Hungary’s border fence

September 4th, 2017

Pundits across the political spectrum comment on PM Orbán’s request to the European Commission to reimburse half of the construction costs of the border fence – and the European Commission’s refusal to do so.

PM Orbán asked the European Commission to reimburse 440 million Euros, 50 per cent of Hungary’s expenses on border control, including the fence erected on Hungary’s southern border. PM Orbán argued that Hungary is protecting the Schengen borders of the whole EU, and recalled that the EU has contributed to border control procedures in Italy, Greece and Bulgaria. In an unusually swift response on Friday, the European Commission turned down PM Orbán’s request. EC spokesman Alexander Winterstein said that Hungary has already received nearly 100 million Euros from the EU security and refugee funds. The European Commission added that the EC does not subsidize fences built on the external borders of the EU, although when Greece built a fence in 2011 along a section of its land border with Turkey, in agreement with Frontex, the EU border protection agency, the EU co-funded  thermal vision cameras along the fenceIn his statement on Hungary’s claim, Mr Winterstein said that solidarity should be mutual in the EU, and called on Hungary to exercise solidarity by complying with the EU refugee redistribution quota system.

Magyar Hírlap’s Tamás Ulicza thinks that the EU has again ‘left Hungary in the lurch’.  The pro-government columnist finds it highly complacent that the EU does not support fences but at the same time is willing to make deals with African states that are likely to use inhumane methods to stop migration. Ulicza also finds it peculiar that the EU offers financial support to Italy and Greece to protect the EU borders, but is not willing to help Hungary in the same effort. In conclusion, He suggests that the EU leadership weakens the Union by trying to force migrant redistribution quotas on member states, rather than helping them to defend the Schengen borders.

In Népszava, Miklós Hargitai suspects that the Hungarian government did not believe for a second that the EU would reimburse half the construction cost of the border fence. Moreover, the left-wing commentator speculates that the Hungarian government could get into an awkward situation if the EU approved the request, as they would then have to publish the detailed budget of the construction. Hargitai accuses the government of concluding over-priced contracts with pro-government entrepreneurs.

in Heti Válasz, András Stumpf interprets PM Orban’s request as a political move intended to turn the EU’s accusation of ‘undermining solidarity’ on its head. The conservative pundit suspects that the government will use the EU’s refusal to deplore the lack of solidarity on the part of the EU.

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