news letterOur mobile application

Weekly newsletter

New Trends in European Migration Policy?

Denes Salyi 2018.06.15.

Essential realignments are happening in Western-European politics, particularly in approaches to migration. Opinions which call for restricting migration are clearly gathering momentum in political discourse, while supporters of Willkommenskultur are losing ground. As a result of this process, Viktor Orbán has seemingly begun to step out of the EU political quarantine he has been in for some time. What is more, a growing number of European politicians refer to the necessity of applying “the Hungarian solution” elsewhere to defending European borders.

Italy, the 4th biggest country in the European Union, with a population of 60 million, saw a change of government recently. A coalition of the populist, anti-migration Five Star Movement and the radical right-wing Northern League, which is also anti-migration, will lead the country. The Ministry of the Interior was given to Matteo Salvini, head of the Northern League, who has promised a complete change in Italian migration policy.  He has confirmed that Italy will not admit masses of migrants in the future, and from the hundreds of thousands staying in the country, he already wants to extradite all those who are there illegally.

Italy has appeared in the limelight in recent days due to several issues. One of them has been the Italian government’s decision to refuse access to Italian ports to the ship Aquarius, which had over 600 African refugees on board. After the Italian veto, Malta followed suit, denying permit to the refugees, who were finally received by the newly formed socialist government of Spain and landed at the port of Valencia. The case gave rise to a heated diplomatic debate between France and Italy. A new phenomenon can be viewed behind these events: while earlier only smaller member states of EU sounded harsh anti-migrant criticism, one of the biggest member states has now joined the club of countries which strongly oppose the current refugee policy of the European Union.

The week has also brought a surprising statement made by the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. She gave an interview on public television, in which she spoke in a more placating tone about the Hungarian refugee policy, in marked contrast with her previous such communications. She pointed out that ’in a way Hungary is doing the job for us as well’ referring to the fact that Hungary defending its borders also provides defense for the rest of the member states.

In the light of such events in the European political arena it is rather strange that Madeleine Albright, former American Secretary of State, mentioned Hungary’s ruling Fidesz as a potential contributor to “the raw anger that feeds fascism” in Europe. Strangely enough, the title of her article as it was published in print was not the same as that of the online version, which brings up potential ethical considerations.

The online print titles of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s New York Times article

As far as the content of her analysis is concerned, it is utterly wrong. It’s doubtless that a shift to the right can be experienced in European politics, but the vision of fascism getting stronger is a misunderstanding of the situation. What lies behind the growing popularity of both right-wing and populist parties is exactly their refusal of migration and their demand for changing Brussels’ policy towards centralization in the EU. To qualify these platforms as fascism, however, would be a complete failure, typical of doctrinal thinking. In 2019 the European Parliament will be hold elections, and political experts predict the success of anti-migration parties. If we can state that, in a rapidly changing world, foreseeing events is a substantial element of political talent, Mr Orbán has done fairly well.


Images via and the New York Times