Organizing Immigration Issue, Cause of Escalation of Divergence in EU

2023/11/29 | interview, political, top news

Strategic Council Online - Interview: An expert on European affairs stated that the European Union is faced with the challenge of conflict in some different opinions and policies among member countries, which can affect the overall approach to immigration in Europe. She noted that when the member states follow different paths, the principle of solidarity and cooperation of the Union is distorted and can challenge the unity of the Union.

Farnaz Eskandari, in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, said since the Syrian crisis migration, as a permanent debate in the European Union, has created differences in the attitudes and political orientations of the member states, adding: The migration crisis has opened a space for the players pessimistic about Europe in order to use it as an issue for politicization and securitization. The pessimistic discourse of Europe considers the migration crisis as a threat to national, economic, cultural, and internal security. In this regard, new security measures, such as border control and discourse that uses anti-immigration themes, can be seen in many member states.

Saying that Hungary, in opposition to the migration policy of the European Union, has raised the discourse of security as the main issue, she added: The prime minister of Hungary, at the European Union meeting regarding the amendment of the asylum laws of the Union, made an apparent connection between terrorist acts and immigration and said he would resist Brussels’ plan to share responsibility across the bloc for hosting asylum seekers or share the costs, and that those who support immigration also support terrorism. His remarks came after the recent deadly attacks in Belgium and France by two extremists who had their asylum applications rejected.

While referring to Poland’s warnings about the start of a new wave of illegal immigration due to Israel’s war in Gaza, the expert on European affairs said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is considered one of the hardline figures in the European Union due to his government’s firm stance against immigration. Supporting nationalistic approaches, he has consistently opposed the EU’s approach to the influx of asylum seekers and migrants, especially since the migration crisis of 2015. His government has implemented strict border control measures, including constructing fences along Hungary’s borders to prevent immigrants from entering, and believes that each member state should have the right to determine its immigration policies based on its national interests and security concerns.

Eskandari says that economic disparities among member states, differences in political ideologies, and national interests have fueled disagreements on political issues, not only immigration. And added: When member states follow different paths, the union’s principle of solidarity and cooperation is distorted and can challenge the unity of the Union.

Emphasizing that the divergence between the policies of the European Union and Hungary in the field of immigration includes different dimensions, she explained: The European Union emphasizes cultural diversity and integration as a positive feature and considers immigration as an opportunity to enrich societies, but Hungary prioritizes preservation of its national identity, which leads to a more cautious approach to immigration to maintain cultural homogeneity. The European Union often sees immigration as a solution to demographic challenges, contributing to economic growth through a diverse and dynamic workforce. However, Hungary is concerned about potential pressures on resources and job competition, leading to a preference for controlled immigration to reduce economic pressures.

The expert on European affairs, referring to the security considerations of Hungary and, at the same time, Europe, which supports the comprehensive measures of screening and integration of immigrants, said: The European Union has mentioned a single approach to immigration as part of its broader vision for common policies, but by prioritizing national sovereignty, Hungary seeks autonomy to implement immigration policies that are more in line with its specific conditions and preferences. In this situation, the European Union faces the challenge of conflict in different opinions and policies among the member states, which can affect the overall approach to immigration. Still, in Hungary, domestic considerations, public sentiment, and the need to address specific national concerns play an important role in shaping immigration policies.

At the same time, Eskandari recalled that the leader of Hungary, one of Europe’s most prominent far-right politicians, has been isolated on the European scene for a long time. Orbán has angered the members of the European Union and NATO because of his positive approach towards Russia and not agreeing to Sweden joining the military alliance. To such an extent, Poland described Orbán’s policy towards Russia as “too toxic” that “nearly everyone wanted to stay away from him.”

Saying that the biggest supporters of Hungary these days are not Europeans but American right-wingers, she continued: Trump recently praised the Hungarian Prime Minister as “one of the strongest leaders anywhere in the world”! But such tactics and tough language that worked for Mr. Trump in the United States have not worked so well in Europe, where political success often depends on forming coalitions in national assemblies and the European Parliament in Brussels, and have reduced his influence.

The expert on European affairs described Orbán’s Fidesz Party as isolated and primarily alone on the European scene and said: During the European migration crisis in 2015, Hungary worked hard to strengthen Europe’s external borders. But Orbán expressed his proposals, which are now widely accepted in European capitals as a correct policy, in harsh and racist language that all but the most extreme far-right groups outside Hungary have kept their distance from him and that Slovakia is the only country now keeping pace with Mr. Orbán.

Eskandari said that Orbán believes that the European Union is no longer fulfilling either of his two promises, that is to say, prosperity and peace, and added: On key issues such as immigration, gender, and national independence, Hungary will remain on the same positions as long as Fidesz is in government. According to the latest polls, the prime minister’s party has a three-quarters majority. Orbán has repeatedly emphasized that Hungary wants to stay in the European Union. Any other option for this small, landlocked country deeply intertwined with the European Union would be tantamount to economic suicide. In his speech in 2022, Orbán also said that he does not expect the Union to adopt Hungary’s immigration policy, or their policy on foreign affairs and Hungarian minorities, beyond their borders and promote them to the European level. But at the same time, they cannot ask them to adopt their policies. There is no solution other than tolerance.

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