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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Viktor Orban vows to oppose EU border-guard plan

The proposal to reinforce border defences would “strip Hungary of its right to protect its own borders”

Viktor Orban delivers his address to the Hungarian Parliament. MTI via AP
Viktor Orban delivers his address to the Hungarian Parliament. MTI via AP

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban vowed on Monday to oppose an EU plan aimed at bolstering the bloc’s external borders, accusing Brussels of wanting to take away Hungary’s control of its own frontiers.

According to the fiercely anti-immigration premier, the plan to reinforce border defences on the bloc’s margins would “strip Hungary of its right to protect its own borders”.

“We will not give up our right to defend a border, no one can take an iota of that away from us,” he said during a speech in parliament in Budapest.

Hungary “understands border defence better than anyone in Brussels or an international organisation,” he said.

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The European Commission unveiled a proposal in July to hike staff numbers at the EU’s border-guard and coastguard agency Frontex.

The Warsaw-based agency only has 600 staff, with EU members assigning extra support through hundreds of police for operations in Italy and Greece, which along with Spain have continued to bear the brunt of the arrivals.

An extra 10,000 agents would be deployed at EU borders from 2020 under the plan, and would be able to patrol and intervene when needed.

Last week Mr Orban described the EU plan as a “pro-immigration” effort led by German chancellor Angela Merkel to remove border control from peripheral countries and give “the keys to the gate” to Brussels.

“They will send mercenaries here from Brussels, from where they will be told how the Hungarian border should be protected,” Mr Orban said on state radio on Friday.

“We should be under no illusions: if they control Hungarian border defences, they will let in the migrants,” he said.

Mr Orban said he would oppose the plan at an informal meeting of EU heads of state in Salzburg, Austria, later this week where the topics of migration and border security are expected to dominate.

In a statement on Monday, the European Commission’s representative office in Budapest denied Mr Orban’s accusations.

“The EU does not want to take over border defence from member states, but rather help them to protect the external borders,” it said.

The 55-year-old premier suffered a rare setback last week when the European Parliament voted to launch a sanctions procedure against Hungary over rule-of-law concerns.

Mr Orban said the vote in Strasbourg was a bid to weaken Hungary which has become a “symbol of resistance against migration”.

Hungary will file a case at the European Court of Justice, said Mr Orban’s chief-of-staff Monday, as the vote did not include abstentions in the calculation of the two-thirds majority necessary for its adoption, and hence broke EU rules according to Budapest.