Orban and Merkel at loggerheads over migration policy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban (L) address a joint press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, 05 July 2018. EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN

Orban and Merkel at loggerheads over migration policy


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During a joint press conference on Thursday, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a “humane” European migration regime, while prime minister Victor Orban called for closed borders.

Chancellor Merkel described the Hungarian government’s position on migration “a problem,” underscoring that migration is about “human beings who come to us.”

Victor Orban responded that he did not see Muslim refugees but “Muslim invaders,” which will lead to “parallel societies,” because “Christian and Muslim society will never unite” and multiculturalism is “an illusion.”

“Germany and Hungary see the world differently,” said Orban, noting that being humane should not mean creating a “pull-factor.” He also noted that Germany should be grateful for the fence Hungary has built along its borders.

While prime minister Orban was in Berlin, Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer was in Austria.

In a common press conference with the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Seehofer vowed to close the key route for migrants arriving from the Mediterranean via Italy and Greece.

The hardline leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) and Merkel’s most polemic critic has recently threatened with resignation, unless Germany assumes an assertive national policy, including border controls.

Seehofer wants to create closed detention “transitional centers,” where asylum seekers will be held before they are returned to the countries in which they first registered, namely Greece and Italy. Chancellor Merkel was forced to agree to the plan or risk the fall of her government.

Meanwhile, the popularity of the German government is freefalling in polls. According to the “Deutschlandtrend” survey published on Thursday – conducted on behalf of the public broadcaster ARD – 80% of respondents are dissatisfied with the ruling coalition. 56% of respondents feel that migration policy attracts more attention than it deserves.

The Chancellor’s personal popularity has declined from 50 in May to 48% in June, but Seehofer has seen his own popularity tumble to 27%, although more than half the respondents welcomed criticism on the Chancellor’s migration policy. 60% of the respondents favour the so-called “transit” centers plan.

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