The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini had hoped to secure a leadership role for the 28 members of the European Union in their relations with the members of the Arab League, but much to the chagrin of the Brussels establishment, Hungary stepped in and cratered the plan from within when blocked the issuance of a joint statement by both parties due to the migration issue.

“The global migration compact cannot be part of a common EU-AL declaration and cooperation. We strongly disagree that the migration should be managed and that the migration has no security risks at all,” said Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The EU and Arab League have maintained close relations for some time, with the EU’s top diplomat attending the League’s summits in years past and senior official meetings taking place regularly. But the recent ministerial meeting in Brussels is likely to leave a bitter aftertaste in the mouths of the participants after the delegation from Budapest reignited one of Europe’s most divisive debates in recent memory – the issue of illegal migration, much of which originates in the Arab World, into the European Union.

While speaking in front of journalists to defend his country’s position, Szijjártó underlined that Hungary ‘is not afraid’ of any repercussions from the EU “simply because a member state has decided to defend its own national interests”.

Despite Szijjártó’s proclamations, Hungary is not the only country who opposed any mention of the UN’s Migration Pact in the joint statement by the Arab League and EU. This put Brussels in an awkward position in front of the Arab League’s top representatives. According to sources, Hungary enlisted the support of the fellow arch-conservative/Eurosceptic government of Poland, though the latter did not table its objections during the ministerial meeting.

While speaking at a press conference following the meeting, Mogherini refused to comment specifically on Hungary’s demarche, but she admitted the presence of internal disagreements among the members of the EU.

“We were wondering at the beginning of the meeting whether it would be a good idea to issue a joint declaration with words that might have had slight nuances, not only between us but also within the respective organisations. We did not come to an agreement on a joint declaration because we are a complex organisation…on both sides,” Mogherini said.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, a UN non-binding agreement on international migration, was ratified in December 2019. The document provoked a major controversy within the EU as Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic voted against the agreement while Austria, Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia, and Romania abstained and Slovakia refused to vote.