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Foreign ministers defend Hungary against Asselborn attack

The Austrian and German foreign ministers joined Hungaryʼs Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó today in firmly rejecting a suggestion by their Luxembourg colleague Jean Asselborn that Hungary should be temporarily or permanently ejected from the European Union, the Hungarian media reported widely today.

Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó.

“Those who, like Hungary, build fences against refugees from war or who violate press freedom and judicial independence should be excluded temporarily, or if necessary for ever, from the EU,” said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn in an interview with German national daily newspaper Die Welt. He added that this is “the only way to preserve the cohesion and values of the EU.”

Asselborn expressed the view that if Hungary were to apply for EU membership today, then it would have no chance of being accepted. He said that the fence which Hungary has built to keep out refugees “will only get longer, higher and more dangerous,” adding that, in his view, “Hungary is now not so far away from giving the order to fire on refugees.”

Asselborn said that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has caused a major problem for Europe, because while the EU would like to present a united front to the outside world and to stand up for certain values, it is no longer able to maintain these values within its borders. “Moreover,” he noted, “all this is happening in a country from where hundreds of thousands fled to Europe from the Soviets in 1956.”

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz described Asselborn’s words as unacceptable, saying that while serious words may be exchanged within the EU, sending messages through the media does not contribute to mutual cooperation.

“Hungary is a European state, a member of the EU and Austria’s neighbor,” Kurz stressed, adding that "we need respect, so that peace in Europe in not endangered.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier likewise distanced himself from Asselborn’s comments.

“I can understand, looking at Hungary, that some people are increasingly impatient in Europe because of the constant squabbles between the European Commission and the Hungarian government. However, it is not my personal approach to show a European member the door,” said Steinmeier.

Responding to his Luxembourg colleague’s comments, Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said the Hungarian people have a right to express their opinion, and to decide with whom they wish to live.

Szijjártó added that “we already knew that Jean Asselborn is not a serious figure,” and described him as “a proper nihilist” who is “sermonizing, conceited and frustrated.”

By contrast, Szijjártó said, Hungary has always protected Europe throughout its history, and is doing so now, adding that the Hungarian people will deliver their opinion in the referendum on October 2 on illegal immigration, the Brussels quota package, and “figures like Jean Asselborn.”

Szijjártó added: “It is somewhat curious that Jean Asselborn and Jean-Claude Juncker – who both come from Luxembourg, the country of "tax optimization" – speak about jointly sharing burdens. But we understand what this really means: Hungary should take on the burden created by the mistakes of others.”