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Luxembourg foreign minister calls for Hungary to be booted from EU

In an interview with a German newspaper, Luxembourg's foreign minister has said the only way to protect EU values is to exclude Hungary from the bloc. Hungary has called the minister "sermonizing" and "pompous."

Tuesday's edition of Die Welt newspaper carried an interview with the foreign minister of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn, in which he called for Hungary to be "temporarily, or in the worst case, permanently" excluded from the European Union.

"We cannot accept that the basic values of the European Union are being massively violated," Asselborn said in the article. "Anyone, such as Hungary, who builds fences against war refugees, or who infringes on the freedom of the press or the independence of the justice system" should be excluded.

Hungary has been one of Europe's most outspoken critics of taking in refugees from conflict areas such as Syria. The nation, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has taken several steps to keep refugees out, including building fences along its borders.

Luxemburg Außenminister Jean Asselborn

Jean Asselborn

Asselborn said refugees are being treated "nearly as bad as animals" and that anyone hoping to breach Hungary's "ever longer, ever taller" fence may face the worst.

"Hungary is not far from an order to shoot refugees," Asselborn said.

Speaking at a press conference in Riga, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier sought to distance himself from his Luxembourg counterpart's comments.

"This is not an agreed position in Europe," he said. "I can understand, looking at Hungary, that some in Europe are getting impatient... however, it is not my personal approach to show a European member state the door," he added.

Hungary's reaction

Hungary's government has also responded, saying in a statement that Hungarians have the right to decide who they want to live with, not "Asselborn and his ilk."

Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Szijjarto said Hungarians would decide in an October 2 referendum whether to accept mandatory EU quotas for relocating migrants.

"This is how things are in a state under the rule of law," he said. Szijjarto also described Asselborn as a "sermonizing, pompous and frustrated" individual whose actions would ultimately destroy Europe's security and culture.

In just a few days time, EU leaders will come together for a special summit on the future of the European Union in Bratislava, particularly in light of Britain's Brexit vote.

Under current EU rules, a nation can be suspended from the bloc following a unanimous vote of the rest of the bloc. Asselborn has called for these rules to be rethought so a unanimous vote would no longer be necessary.

A Human Rights Watch report from July outlined what it called "cruel and violent treatment" of refugees who cross into Hungary without permission. Refugee men, women and children have been "viciously beaten and forced back across the border."

Hungary was the first EU country to block entry to refugees to Europe, initially erecting a fence along the border with Serbia last September and then by barring passage from Croatia a month later. Hungary also brought in new laws punishing illegal entry and vandalism of the fences. These have led to almost 3,000 convictions in fast-track trials, most resulting in expulsion orders.

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