Hungary's announcement that it would suspend the acceptance of asylum seekers sent back from other EU countries came as the union struggles to agree on new migration polities. An EU lawmaker says dialogue is needed.
The European Commission on Wednesday gave only a tight-lipped comment on Hungary's intention, announced Tuesday, to suspend taking in asylum seekers returned from other European countries under the so-called Dublin III regulation.
"We believe that the agreements we have must be respected," said the Commission's vice-president, Kristalina Georgieva.
According to the Dublin III procedure, EU member states can return asylum seekers to the first country EU country a refugee entered for their asylum applications to be processed. Hungary had said it would no longer accept refugees being sent back to the country from other EU nations.
Later on Wednesday, however, the Hungarian government released a statement quoting Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto as saying that while Hungary was complying "with every EU regulation," the country disputed plans by 11 EU member states to send migrants back to them, arguing they did not first set foot in the EU there.
The debate comes at a time when EU heads of state are due to discuss reforming migration policies at a summit in Brussels. The European Commission has proposed introducing quotas to share the burden of refugees across the EU, easing the burden for those member states bearing the brunt of arrivals like Italy, Greece, and Hungary, which says more than 60,000 migrants entered it this year.
DW asked the co-president of the Greens in the European Parliament, Rebecca Harms, for her take on Hungary's actions.
DW: Hungary cited technical reasons for suspending the acceptance of refugees under the Dublin III procedure for an indefinite term. Do you have any sympathies for this position?
Rebecca Harms: From what I have read, the European Commission has said that Hungary should detail its technical problems and that the Commission would then deal with that. I think that that is the right answer.
But I would also say that Hungary, as a member state of the European Union and based on common agreements, has certain duties and obligations to conduct a fair and human rights-based refugee policy. Even if there are technical problems implementing the Dublin III regulations, that doesn't change the fact that Hungary has to fulfill its share within the EU's migration policy.
Hungary says it is overburdened and simply cannot take in the refugees that get sent back from, for instance, Germany. What is Hungary supposed to do?
Hungary is supposed to engage in a fair and reasonable discussion about the distribution of refugees arriving in those European states that border non-EU countries. The discussion about allocating refugees according to a certain quota, which has been raised by the European Commission, has been a discussion in which Hungary has not engaged in a very constructive manner.
However, that doesn't change the fact that the Dublin regulation is one that simply cannot work. The refugees who arrive in the European Union have to be managed and distributed in a manner that is fair and takes into consideration their capacities.
So you do have some sympathies for the steps Hungary has taken?
The Dublin regulation is one that was agreed on so that those EU member states located in the heart of Europe could keep the problem at some distance, because under this regulation, the burden resulting from refugees arriving in Europe lies mainly with those countries that border non-EU-states.
I have always criticized that because this idea runs contrary to the idea that the European Union as a whole has to grant political asylum. I think that the current discussion within the EU, which has been sparked by the catastrophes in the Mediterranean, has to lead to the EU's reworking its migration policy, making it more fair and equitable. This has to be a common effort and a discussion in which all EU members engage in - something which Hungary has not done in the first phase of the discussion.
What should the next steps be?
There has to be a review to ascertain whether the number of refugees arriving in Hungary is really as high as the Hungarian government claims. I, for my part, cannot see what the technical problem is supposed to be. But if it really is true that tens of thousands of refugees have arrived in Hungary in this year alone, then the discussion about quotas has to be engaged in once again with the Council and the European Commission.
German politician Rebecca Harms is co-president of the group of the Green parties in the European Parliament.