Hungary hits back at call for its exclusion from the EU

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on Tuesday slammed his Luxembourg counterpart Jean Asselborn as "pompous" and "sermonizing," after he said Hungary should be excluded from the European Union over its tough stance against migrants.

Asselborn had "excluded himself out of the group of politicians who should be taken seriously," Szijjarto was quoted as saying by the MTI news agency.

He called the long-time Luxembourg minister "sermonizing, pompous and frustrated," drawing parallels between him and EU institutions in Brussels.

Hungary's conservative government, led by Viktor Orban, has repeatedly clashed with the European Union in recent years over everything from migration and the death penalty to the retirement age of judges and the independence of the Hungarian central bank.

The Hungarian prime minister renewed his demands to stem the flow of migrants into the bloc on Tuesday, calling for an EU-wide "migration policy of self defence" during a meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk, Hungary's state news agency MTI reported.

Hungary is now set to hold a referendum on October 2 asking its population if it agrees with an EU decision that asylum seekers be redistributed across the bloc without Budapest agreeing to the move.

Orban has been openly hostile to migrants. Hungary was the first EU country to block entry to migrants and refugees, including by erecting a fence along its border. It has also put in place harsh laws to discourage migrants from crossing its territory.

"Those who, like Hungary, build fences against refugees fleeing war or those who infringe upon press freedom or judicial independence should temporarily or if needed permanently be excluded from the EU," Asselborn told the German newspaper Die Welt in an interview released early Tuesday.

He argued that this is the only way of preserving the cohesion and the values of the bloc.

"The fence that Hungary is building to deter refugees keeps getting longer, higher and more dangerous. Hungary is not far off from [issuing] a firing order against refugees," Asselborn charged.

Hungary would have no chance of joining the EU if it applied for membership today, he added.

His German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier later sought to tone down the spat.

"It is not my personal position that an EU member state should be shown the door," he said in Riga, where he was meeting his Baltic counterparts. "We have to confront the difficult debates that sometimes exist."

"On the other hand, I can understand that some in Europe are becoming impatient ... regarding the continuing debate between the European Commission and the Hungarian government," Steinmeier added.

The EU's executive refused to comment on the issue.

Hungary became a member of the EU in 2004. The bloc's treaty does not foresee the possibility of excluding a member state, but offers the option of suspending a country's voting rights in the bloc if it violates basic values such as the rule of law.

The spat between Asselborn and Hungary comes a few days before Orban will meet his EU counterparts at a summit meant to set the direction of the bloc following Britain's shock decision to withdraw.

In depth coverage

Hungary should be excluded from the EU, Luxembourg minister says

Hungary should be excluded from the European Union, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said in an interview published Tuesday, taking issue with the country's migration policies weeks before it holds a controversial referendum on refugee quotas.

Read more
Last update: Tue, 13/09/2016 - 09:59
Last update: Tue, 13/09/2016 - 21:19

More from Europe

EU parliament rejects money laundering blacklist for being too short

European Union lawmakers Thursday rejected a blacklist compiled by the European Commission of countries deemed to be...

ECB leaves rates on hold as its ponders global uncertainties

The European Central Bank left its monetary policy on hold Thursday as it faces up to a slew of global economic and...

Britain's May woos investors, soothes voters in Davos

Britain will emerge as the global champion of free trade after leaving the European Union, British Premier Theresa...

Germany and Austria push for extension of border controls

Germany and Austria want to extend controls at their border amid ongoing security threats, the countries' interior...

Russia rejects European court ruling to pay former Yukos shareholders

Russia's Constitutional Court has rejected a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights to pay almost 2 billion...