Juncker sends unpleasant response to letter by Hungarian PM Orbán

“Solidarity is not an à-la-carte dish," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker replied to a request by Hungarian Premier Viktor Orbán that the EU should split the costs of Hungary protecting its own borders, which happen to be the block’s borders as well, from the influx of refugees.
Politico has obtained the letter Juncker has written to Orbán as a response to the Hungarian Prime Minister asking the EU to reimburse half of the expenses incurred by Hungary for measures taken for the protection of external borders in the last two years.

Juncker acknowledged that the protection of the EU’s external borders is “a matter of common concern", and that the Commission is assisting all Member States in the protection of the Union’s external borders and the management of migratory flows.

He reminded Orbán that in 2015, when Hungary was affected by the refugee crisis the EC proposed that an emergency relocation scheme would apply to Hungary, alongside Italy and Greece.

Hungary, however, decided, to reject this offer of concrete solidarity, declining the possibility to benefit from relocation of up to 54.000 persons and decided to return nearly 4 million euro of EU funds pre-paid by the Commission to Hungary.

Subsequently, Hungary has challenged the validity of the Council decisions on relocation before the Court of Justice.

Juncker also pointed out that Hungary has been able to rely on other forms of operational and financial support from the Commission and EU Agencies, such as three emergency grants amounting to 6.26 million euros Hungary received in 2014-2015.

The President noted that regretfully - given the modest implementation rate by Hungary of these three grants - only around 33% of the funds were used and the unused funds were lost.

To support the protection of external borders, Hungary should also rely on the EU funding already allocated under the national envelope of the Internal Security Fund "Borders", amounting to more than EUR 40 million for the period 2014-2020, the President added.

Another form of European solidarity is represented by the EU's regional funds, Juncker noted, reminding that Hungary is the 8th largest beneficiary of the European Structural and Investment Funds in the period 2014-2020, with an allocation of EUR 25 billion.

This represents more than 3% of Hungary's GDP annually, the highest of any Member State.

With regard to other forms of assistance, Juncker also noted that the European Border and Coast Guard provides active operational support to Hungary with the deployment of currently 20 European border guards at the border sections with Serbia.

Juncker has acknowledge Hungary's contribution to the EU external financial instruments supporting migration related projects in countries of origin and transit.

In this context, if Hungary now wishes to request additional financial support for the protection of external borders in case of specific urgent needs, the Commission is ready to swiftly examine this request and provide the appropriate assistance for a strengthened border control carried out in accordance with EU law

, he said.

The President reminded that to respond to the migration crisis, the Commission has provided such emergency assistance to Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Spain, following the examination of their applications.

Juncker also responded to Orbán’s call in his letter for more Europe in the area of migration and border management, building on the principle of solidarity.

“Solidarity is a two-way street. There are times in which Member States may expect to receive support, and times in which they, in turn, should stand ready to contribute. And solidarity is not an à-la-carte dish; one that can be chosen for border management, and rejected when it comes to complying with relocation decisions that have been jointly agreed."

Juncker noted that the EC and himself remain committed to working together with Hungary towards a more efficient and fairer European migration and asylum policy, based on responsibility and solidarity.

I count on your active contribution, on the basis of our EU Treaties and our common values

, he concluded.

Front page photo by: MTI/EPA Olivier Hoslet

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