Belgian PM’s Comments on Potential Punishment of V4 Countries Generate Heated Reactions
Ábrahám Vass 2018.02.08.
In a video message posted to his Facebook page on Tuesday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán criticized recent comments by his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel, who had earlier had suggested punishing Visegrád 4 countries (a grouping which includes Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia) if they continued to reject the EU’s agreed-upon refugee quota plan.
Orbán first noted that the national board of the ruling Fidesz party yesterday discussed a comment by the Belgian prime minister that central European countries would ‘have to accept migrants’. He then claimed that “We cannot give in to extortion. For us, Hungary is first. We will fight those who want to change the Christian identity of Hungary and Europe.” In his comments, the Belgian PM had said that the European Council, together with heads of government and of state, would decide on Europe’s migration policy by a qualified majority at a summit in June. He said an ultimatum would be issued to Visegrad Group (V4) countries that chose to “reject solidarity”.
Fidesz spokesman Imre Puskás claimed that Brussels had completely ignored the Visegrad countries’ opposition to the migrant quotas; he claimed that the Belgian PM’s announcement was a part of the supposed ‘Soros plan‘ (a term which the Orbán government has been employing in recent months to attack Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros in the lead-up to April’s parliamentary elections).
In Bratislava, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said that Michel’s “ultimatum” is “coercion” that Hungary will never yield to and that the words of the Belgian PM are “shocking” as this was supposedly the first occasion when Brussels openly prepared for pushing through migrant quotas, disregarding the opinions of certain EU countries.
Thus far, the Visegrad countries have generally been on the same page with regards to opposing the quota system; if the EU’s governing bodies truly wish to push forward with their plan a harsh diplomatic battle can be expected, as the V4 countries together represent a powerful group within the EU. It remains a question, however, if they can stick together, as there were signs in the past that Slovakia, for example, could be convinced to side with the EU in the event of a dispute.