May 2, 2015 / 12:56 PM / 4 years ago

Hungary needs legislation to curb immigration, PM Orban says

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary needs legislation to keep out a wave of immigrants from poor countries, even if it would run counter to existing European Union rules, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses during the Hungary's National Day celebrations, which also commemorates the 1848 Hungarian Revolution against the Habsburg monarchy, in Budapest March 15, 2015. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

Brussels should allow EU member states to set their own rules about migrants, adding that the inflow of immigrants was not good to Europe generally, he told Echo TV in an interview aired late on Friday.

“We don’t want to see immigrants in Hungary,” he said. “If (other EU members) want to receive immigrants, they can do it. But then they should not send them back here, or through us.”

Orban said Hungary should raise the issue of what he called overly loose immigration rules on a European level because, within the EU, it received the largest number of migrants relative to its population after Sweden.

Migrants arriving in Hungary mostly want to move on to richer EU members but Germany, Austria and some other states are likely to take measures to block a growing tide of immigrants from poor countries, he said.

Hungary’s national debate on immigration would probably lead to legislation that may anger Brussels, he added. “There will be a big battle, a big fight (over the legislation),” he said.

He added that the EU, which he said was based on Christian principles, had a moral responsibility to help poor countries whose citizens try to flee from poverty to Europe.

Earlier this week, Orban crossed swords with Brussels over the issue of re-introducing the death penalty, which he said he did not plan but should be open to public debate in Hungary.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged him to make clear he had no intention of restoring it and promised a “fight” if he tried to do so.

In the interview, Orban rejected criticism from European Parliament President Martin Schulz for raising the issue.

“It is possible that at the end of the debate we will agree with Martin Schulz (on death penalty),” he said. “But we will never agree that he wants to ban us to have a debate.”

Reporting by Sandor Peto; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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