Despite voicing opposition, Hungary has decided to support the European Union’s Temporary Protection Directive for Ukrainian refugees fleeing their country. Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás had announced a few hours prior to the Council’s decision that Hungary, along with the Visegrád Group countries, does not support the measure.
Orbán Gov’t First Against Directive
During his press conference on Thursday, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás said that neither Hungary nor its V4 counterparts supports the directive. He brought up that it does not extend to refugees with dual Hungarian and Ukrainian citizenship.
Gulyás later added that Hungarian refugees from Ukraine will be given immediate support at the border and from their relatives further inland, but they must also be assisted with job opportunities.
Orbán Gov’t Supports Directive in Council Decision
The European Commission proposed to activate the Temporary Protection Directive on Thursday, receiving unanimous support by the Union’s interior ministers in the Council. No news was provided on Czech, Slovak, or Polish viewpoints that would have differed from agreement. In response to a question raised about Hungary’s suggested opposition, French Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin said that there was no such opposing viewpoint from the Hungarian side either.
A Measure to Grant Immediate Aid to Refugees
The 2001 Temporary Protection Directive, initially a response to the aftermath of the Yugoslav and Kosovo wars, is intended to give refugees from non-EU countries immediate protection for one year. It bypasses the bureaucratic measures refugees from outside the EU would typically need to go through to receive aid.
Refugees have thus been given access to the education system, labor market, healthcare, housing, professional assistance, and social welfare. They can access these in any EU country they enter, similarly to a European citizen.
The protective measure will step into force on Friday. It can be extended automatically for another year before further extensions need to be decided on by the European Council.
The directive applies to Ukrainian nationals, their relatives, and long-term residents from other nationalities who cannot get back to their country of origin safely. This means seasonal workers, exchange students, and Hungarian citizens living in Ukraine are excluded from the protection scheme.
Orbán Gov’t Explains Change of Position
Hvg asked the Hungarian government why it had changed its position within a few hours on the directive. According to the Government Information Centre, “the version tabled to the the Justice and Home Affairs Council was different from the previous proposal, and it was acceptable to everyone, therefore Hungary also supported it.”
Featured photo illustration by Attila Balázs/MTI