EC issues brusque response to fence financing request

Int’l Relations

Money for the fence - no; for border protection - maybe. In a nutshell this is the answer given by the European Commission to the recent letter of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, in which he requested a financial contribution towards the costs of border protection.

Hungaryʼs PM Viktor Orbán, seen here at left, being led off stage by the hand by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a video clip that went viral in July 2015.

Invoking "the spirit of European solidarity," Prime Minister Viktor Orbán requested EUR 400 million in a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, representing half of the amount Hungary says it has spent on protection of its borders. 

"Hungary has been following the Schengen rules since the very beginning of the migration crisis, requiring the protection of the external borders. With the construction of the fence, training and placing 3,000 border-hunters into active service, our country is protecting not only itself but the entire Europe against the flood of illegal migrants," the prime minister wrote.

The European Commission responded less than 24 hours later. As Commission Spokesman Alexander Winterstein said in a briefing today, the EC might consider giving more funds to Hungary for border protection, but with some limitations.

"We are not financing the construction of fences or barriers at the external borders. We do support border management measures at the external borders – this can be surveillance measures, this can be border control equipment, but fences we do not finance," Winterstein said, as quoted by international wire service Reuters.

The spokesman agreed that solidarity is an important principle of the EU, but noted that it is "a two-way street and all member states should be ready to contribute. This is not some sort of à la carte menu where you pick one dish, for example border management, whilst refusing another dish, like compliance with relocation decisions."

The relocation of refugees is an issue strongly debated inside the EU. Hungary has been asked to accept a quota of 1,294 refugees, which the Orbán government has consistently refused to do. The European Court of Justice is expected to rule next week on the case.

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