July 27, 2018 / 5:57 AM / 4 months ago

Hungary's Orban digs in against European Commission on migration policy

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday that a new European Commission is needed with a new approach to migration policy, adding that the days of the current EU executive are “numbered” with its mandate expiring next May.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during a joint statment with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, (not seen) at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, July 19, 2018. Debbie Hill/Pool via Reuters

Orban, one of the strongest opponents of the EU’s migration policy, told state radio the next Commission should not punish countries that protect their borders from migrants.

The European Commission earlier this month stepped up a legal battle with Hungary over EU migration rules, declaring illegal a new Hungarian law that criminalises support for asylum seekers.

It referred Hungary to the EU Court of Justice “for non-compliance of its asylum and return legislation with EU law”.

Orban said the Commission’s decision was insignificant as its mandate was running out soon.

He said the current decisions and proposals of the Commission were like “the last movements of frogs’ legs in biological experiments which we saw when we were at school, which no longer had significance.”

“We need a new Commission... with a new approach,” Orban told radio.

“We need a Commission after the European elections which does not punish those countries that protect their borders like Hungary,” he added.

He said the EU executive should instead punish those who let millions of migrants into Europe in violation of the existing rules of the EU. He did not name any member states.

European Parliamentary elections will be held in May 2019.

Orban’s right-wing nationalist Fidesz party has a strong lead in opinion polls after it won national elections in April with a landslide, and he was re-elected for a third consecutive term.

Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Hugh Lawson

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