A scheduled visit by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to the party conference of the conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) on Friday highlighted policy differences between members of a potential "grand coalition" in Germany, notably with regard to refugees.
Speaking at the conference, Orban said that the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants in Europe has created a "democracy problem."
He said that Europeans do not want to live under the "threat of terrorism," adding that "they want the borders to be protected."
The populist leader added that he believes the year 2018 will be "the year of restoring the will of the people in Europe."
His controversial trip to the Bavarian town of Seeon-Seebruck comes two days before Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its sister party the CSU and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) are due to commence "exploratory talks" on forming a governing coalition.
Orban has been criticized by most member states of the European Union for his refusal to take in refugees under a quota scheme. The European Commission has also accused him of eroding democracy and the rule of law in Hungary through a number of controversial legislative moves.
The CSU has come into conflict with its potential coalition partners, particularly the SPD, over its own hardline refugee policy, which envisages a limit to the number of asylum seekers that Germany takes in.
The party also wants to see the current moratorium on family reunification extended. Presently, family members of asylum seekers whose application has been only conditionally granted are not allowed to follow them to Germany.
In addition, some CSU members envisage sending certain Syrian refugees back to "safe regions" in their conflict-ridden home country, an idea opposed as premature even by most other conservative politicians.
At the CSU conference, which is to run until Saturday, the party is also to decide on a controversial demand to make asylum seekers undergo procedures to determine their age. The demand came after a murder case in the town of Kandel in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, in which an refugee minor allegedly killed his 15-year-old ex-girlfriend.
In an interview with the Bild daily published Friday, SPD chairman Martin Schulz called on CSU leader Horst Seehofer to remind Orban of his obligations under EU laws on refugees, telling the Bild newspaper in an interview published on Friday that the Hungarian prime minister was following a "dangerous logic."
He said Orban was torpedoing the refugee distribution scheme, engineered largely by Merkel, in total disregard for EU law, despite being required by the scheme to take in just 1,920 refugees
Countries such as Hungary and Poland were acting "as if the issue of refugees were only a matter for Germany," adding that the EU was "not a supermarket where everyone took what suited them," but a community bound by law.
Seehofer has defended Orban's visit, saying it was important to keep dialogue open with the Hungarian leader.
Another less controversial visitor to the CSU party conference was former boxer Vitali Klitschko, now the mayor of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Klitschko is an outspoken advocate of moving Ukraine toward the European Union.
rs, tj/rc (dpa, AFP)