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Hungary back-paddles after criticism, vows to respect EU agreements

Miro Guzzini , Wednesday 24 Jun 2015
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Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban (left) with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (Photo:Reuters)
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The government of Hungary reversed its recent decision to temporarily suspend EU agreements on asylum seekers after Austria and the EU pressured the country to reconsider their move.
 
In a declaration of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, the government declared that it was "out of consideration" to suspend EU norms. According to la Repubblica, this assurance was repeated by Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó over the phone with his Austrian couterpart, Sebastian Kurz.
 
Hungary had put itself at odds with the EU, and with its neighbor Austria in particular, by announcing the unilateral suspension of the Dublin Regulation on Tuesday, Reuters reports. These state that migrants must apply for asylum in the first EU country that they enter, and may be returned to that country if found in other member states.
 
Viktor Orbán's government has taken on an increasingly tough stance on immigration, causing frustration in Brussels with their stark criticism of EU's newly proposed migrant quota system. They claim that this system does not take Hungary's own considerable influx of illegal immigrants into consideration, with more than 60,000 migrants reaching the country this year, according to Reuters.
 
Prime Minister Orbán has been quoted saying that the proposed EU quotas "border on insanity", Reuters reports.
 
Claiming that "Hungary has used up the capacities at its disposal" and thus needed "to take a move ahead of EU decisions," the government presented the suspension of the Dublin regulations as a "technical" measure, Reuters writes. This drew immediate criticism from the EU and from Austria, who would be hardest hit if its neighbor Hungary ceased to register its illegal immigrants.
 
A spokesperson for the European Commission called on Hungary to provide "immediate clarification", and Austria's Interior Minister denounced the move and demanded the continued observance of European rules, Zeit Online reports.
 
While plans to suspend the Dublin Regulation have thus been dropped, Budapest has vowed to maintain its other controversial project: the construction of a guarded fence along its border with Serbia, through which most illegal migrants gain access to the country. The project, expected to cost Hungary 21 million euros, was announced last week, attracting widespread international criticism, FAZ writes.
 
Foreign Minister Szijjártó pointed out to Zeit Online that Hungary would have to change several laws before construction could begin on the border fence, however. The Hungarian parliament is soon to debate the first of these laws, which would allow the government to unilaterally declare countries to be "safe third countries", according to FAZ. 
 
Experts estimate that this would allow the Hungarian government to reject any migrants arriving from Serbia, the paper claims.
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