BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The mandatory quota system for distributing asylum seekers among EU member states was decided without respect for public opinion and this could cause a “democracy crisis” in Europe, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.
The right-wing conservative Orban has sealed off Hungary’s southern borders and cited a threat to European culture and Christian values from an influx of hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim migrants into the European Union this year.
As Germany prepares to take in most of a million or so migrants by the end this year, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s push for a permanent relocation mechanism setting binding national quotas has met fierce resistance, notably from smaller, less affluent eastern states like Hungary in the 28-nation EU.
“Who authorised Europe’s leaders, or some of its leaders, to conduct this kind of policy? This is a democratic continent,” Orban told Hungarian public radio in an interview.
“When and who voted for admitting millions of people who entered illegally, and distributing them among EU member states? What’s happening lacks democratic foundations.”
Orban said the proposed quota system was unreasonable, unlawful and unfair. Hungary also refused to receive any migrants expelled from western Europe since those migrants - who come mainly from war- and poverty-stricken parts of the Middle East, Asia and Africa - had first entered the EU via Greece.
“And now ... there is an even bigger threat that the quotas could become a permanent legal measure, with those arriving automatically distributed, and we do not accept that.”
Orban, one of the most outspoken opponents of immigration in Europe, said that imposing quotas challenged the very foundations of Europe built on nation states.
When it built fences along its borders with Serbia and Croatia, drawing sharp criticism from western EU countries, Hungary argued it was meeting its obligations to protect the outer frontier of the EU’s Schengen zone of passport-free travel. Orban said the EU should stick to its rules as otherwise Europe could slide into “anarchy”.
The fence has cut the number of migrants entering Hungary to a trickle, shifting the flow to Croatia and Slovenia as tens of thousands continue to trek towards preferred destinations in wealthy western Europe despite descending winter cold.
The unrelenting influx has become Europe’s biggest migration crisis since World War Two.
“When the EU veers off the path of legality then it could sink into anarchy very quickly ... and now we are falling off the cliff,” Orban said.
Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Mark Heinrich