Hungary Vetoes Joint EU-African Plan to Reduce Migration, Causing Diplomatic Uproar
Tom Szigeti 2018.04.27.
At a meeting of EU ambassadors on April 25th that had gathered to approve the language of an agreement intended to encourage African countries to reduce migration into Europe, the Hungarian ambassador unexpectedly vetoed the text, which had been under discussion for a year, leading other EU states to charge Hungary with hypocrisy and two-faced dealing.
As the left-wing news site 444.hu reports, this veto caused anger among the other EU ambassadors gathered to work out the final details of the agreement ahead of meetings with African governments that are slated to begin next week. The current agreement was, in large part, a reinforcement of language agreed to by both EU members and African countries at a meeting in Malta in 2015. Hungary was also a signatory of the 2015 agreement.
Hungarian Ambassador Olivér Várhelyi was the only EU representative to object to the language of the agreement, which he claimed had language that spoke too positively about legal migration.
Many of the EU ambassadors assembled publicly criticized the Hungarian veto, noting that the plan itself is meant to stop further illegal immigration into the bloc, and arguing that
Hungary’s veto had actually harmed the fight against illegal migration.
The main goal of this cooperation, which will be discussed formally next week at a meeting in Marrakesh, is to launch a program under which the EU would give financial aid to African countries in exchange for their help in reducing illegal migration into Europe. This program would also include aid programs, police cooperation to catch human traffickers, and financial incentives to those willing to abandon plans to illegally enter the EU.
Due to the Hungarian government’s last-minute veto, all official references to the EU as a whole must be removed from the agreement; instead, the agreement will now be issued in the name of the bloc’s commissioners responsible for foreign affairs and migration, which experts note significantly weakens the power of the deal (all EU member states have the right to a veto in matters of foreign affairs).
The Belgian, Portuguese, and Italian ambassadors responded angrily to the Hungarian veto, as did the representatives of Spain, France, Austria, and Finland. They argued that the move reflected poorly on the EU as a whole, and claimed that
Hungary’s behavior was damaging efforts to actually handle the migrant crisis.
The Portuguese ambassador described the Hungarian veto as “incomprehensible”, especially considering that the agreement is intended to reduce the flow of migration into the bloc. These feelings were echoed by the Belgian ambassador as well.
In response to the last-minute veto, the French and German ambassadors attacked what they described as
regular Hungarian efforts to undermine the EU’s important collective issues.
Until recently, while it may have disagreed with some aspects of EU foreign policy, the Orbán government refrained from vetoing important decisions. That has changed recently, and repeated Hungarian vetoes have reportedly convinced many Western European governments that Hungary’s government is, in fact, an internal enemy actively working against the interests of the EU as a whole.
And observers point out that Hungary’s eastern neighbors may be growing increasingly wary of Orbán’s increasingly aggressive politics as well, as they fear that these actions will cause the bloc to reduce cohesion funding for Eastern European countries, or to tie such funding to the maintenance of democratic norms, a development that is in fact already underway.
444.hu also reports that the Orbán government’s “diplomatic sabotage” has led some countries to abandon Hungary on issues that they would otherwise be happy to help on. The most prominent of these, supposedly, is the issue of Ukraine’s controversial education laws attacking minority language education. While many member states reportedly agreed with Hungary’s stance on the issue, they didn’t want to support a cause that was important to the Orbán government in the wake of its recent diplomatic “trolling.”