So Hungary started erecting a barbed-wire fence on the border with Slovenia as well yesterday morning. Since the Orban government was busy doing exactly that for the past few weeks on its borders with Serbia and Croatia, seemingly to stem the influx of refugees, the move shouldn’t come as a surprise. But Ljubljana was surprised and has officially yet to respond to the move.
Shitty graphics by yours truly
According to media reports, it was the Slovenian police which first noted the Hungarian army fooling around with metal constructions at Pince border crossing. The foreign ministry was notified and – nothing. Foreign minister Karl Erjavec lamented the fact that Hungary did not notfiy Slovenia ahead of time and later said that his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto told him in an informal phone call that fence is “a temporary installation”. Yeah, well, so was the Berlin wall.
Admittedly, the joke in this case is on Slovenia. The country’s intelligence services apparently failed to even predict let alone detect Hungarian moves. Even worse, three weeks ago Slovenian president Borut Pahor met Victor Orban and said that some Hungarian measures need to be taken into account. To Pahor’s credit, he did manage a between-the-lies criticism of Orban’s policies by stating that “some of his assessments left me [Pahor] speechless”. But actions speak louder than words. And one wonders just how speechless the Prez was yesterday, when he woke up to an iron curtain on his North-Eastern border. Needless to say Slovenia has yet to lodge a formal protest with the Hungarian ambassador in Ljubljana.
Now, clichés about temporary solutions having a tendency of becoming permanent aside, we really need to talk about Hungary. On an Europe-wide level. The country has now erected or is in the process of doing so, a barbed wire fence on the border with three of its seven neighbouring states. Since its borders with Romania and Ukraine are also the outer borders of the Schengen Area and the EU respectively, the only intra-EU borders which remain non-fenced one way or another are borders with Austria and Slovakia. And those two countries suspended Schengen rules on their side of the border (as did Slovenia last week, mind you), making Hungary, well, fenced-off from the rest of the world.
And that is a huge problem.
You see, the difference between this latest case of Hungarian metal works and all the preceding ones is that this is the first instance of a newly installed physical barrier between two Schengen Area members. Which sort of defies the point of a common Schengen area and raises the question of just how much Hungary can get away with in terms of breaching basic EU agreements. Because unlike other suspensions of Schengen rules, this one wasn’t announced. And even those countries that did suspend Schengen, are doing so in terms of reintroduced border-crossing check-points rather than the new Iron Curtain.
Which brings us to the next problem: in his previous post, pengovsky wrote that the barbed-wire fence, while officially meant to stem the influx of refugees is indeed a show for domestic consumption and a message to any Hungarian who wants to challenge Orban’s grip on power. Fact it that Hungarians can not cross a single neighbouring border without someone at least knowing about it. If – or, rather, when – the fence project continues, that particular somenone will be tempted to start
allowing prohibiting travel. Which is why Klaxons should be ringing in Brussels. Loudly.
And if that is not enough for you, try this on for size. Days ago Hungarian parliament by a large majority passed an act increasing powers of the police and the military in responding to the refugee crisis. Those powers now include use of nonlethal firearms as well as disregarding the right of the privacy of home in search of “illegal migrants” as the official term goes.
So, now we have a fenced-off country where the police and the army have hugely increased powers and overlapping jurisdictions. Suppose in a few months or years someone comes up with an amendment to the increased powers act, replacing the term “illegal migrants” with, say, “enemies of the state”.
UPDATE: According to Slovenian media Hungarian army began dismantling the fence with Budapest apparently claiming it was all a misunderstading. Riiiight….
UPDATE 2: This via Andrew MacDowall via Hugarian Spectrum. Apparently the offical term for the installation on the border was not “a fence” but “a wire obstacle”. Brilliant! 😀