Exclude Hungary from EU, says Luxembourg’s Asselborn

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Hungarian police at Roszke, July 2016 (pic: N Thorpe)

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has called for Hungary to be suspended or even expelled from the European Union because of its “massive violation” of EU fundamental values.

He cited the Budapest government’s treatment of refugees, independence of the judiciary and freedom of the press.

“Hungary is not far away from issuing orders to open fire on refugees,” he suggested.

Hungary said Mr Asselborn “could not be taken seriously”.

EU leaders meet in Slovakia on Friday to discuss the union’s future.

Mr Asselborn’s interview with German daily Die Welt is likely to inflame passions ahead of the summit.

The EU could not tolerate “such inappropriate behaviour”, he said, and any state that violated such basic values “should be excluded temporarily, or if necessary for ever, from the EU”. It was “the only possibility to protect the cohesion and values of the European Union,” he said.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto hit back, saying that his Luxembourg counterpart had “long left the ranks of politicians who could be taken seriously”. Mr Asselborn was a “frivolous character”, he said, adding that he was “patronising, arrogant and frustrated

Media captionAnti-migrant messages in Hungary have seen public sympathy for migrants plummet, as Nick Thorpe reports

Hungary joined the EU in 2004 and while the European Union can reject or delay a candidate from joining, it is not thought to have the power to expel an existing member state.

When the far-right Freedom Party joined Austria’s government in 2000, EU member states responded by freezing bilateral diplomatic relations with Austria. Later that year the EU ended Austria’s diplomatic isolation.

A referendum takes place on 2 October when Hungarians will be asked to decide on an EU quota to take in refugees. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has strongly criticised the EU’s plans to relocate 160,000 refugees across the bloc and his government has campaigned vigorously for a No vote.

Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg foreign minister (file pic)
Mr Asselborn said Hungary was not far away from issuing orders to shoot at refugees

Hungary was caught up in an enormous influx of migrants and refugees a year ago as more than a million people headed through central Europe from the shores of Greece towards Germany and other Western European countries.

Eventually, it sealed its borders with Serbia and Croatia and built a 175km (110-mile) razor-wire fence to stop people crossing on their way to Austria.

Some 10,000 police and soldiers have been deployed to guard the frontier.

Mr Asselborn, whose country is a founder member of the EU, complained that Hungary’s border fence was getting higher, longer and more dangerous.

His remark that Hungary was not far from ordering live fire is likely to refer to a decision by police earlier this month to recruit 3,000 “border-hunters”. The new force will carry pepper spray and pistols with live ammunition as part of their task to keep migrants out.

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