The imperial EU is trying to claim another victim

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends a press conference at a "migration summit" in Vienna
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends a press conference at a "migration summit" in Vienna

Hungary in modern times has always had to struggle to maintain its independence. For centuries it was part of the Habsburg Monarchy and in 1848-9 fought a war of independence which it lost.

A “compromise” constitutional settlement was then agreed in 1867 which appeared to put the country on an equal footing with its “Austrian” neighbours, but even within this new “Austria-Hungary” or “dual monarchy” Franz Josef called the shots. A strong Hungarian premier, Istvan Tisza, did manage to delay the outbreak of war in 1914, but the war was lost and Hungary lost roughly 70 per cent of its territory in the peace settlement.

Between the wars, under Admiral Horthy (although the country had no sea border), a Habsburg restoration was thwarted and a parliamentary regime of sorts survived. Hungary, however, became an ally of Hitler, was occupied by the Nazis in 1944 before being occupied by the Soviets and incorporated into their empire. It continued to struggle for independence but its uprising in 1956 was brutally crushed by the Soviets, who issued a declaration claiming they were acting according to socialist principles of “complete equality... state independence and sovereignty, and of non-interference in one another’s internal affairs”. Quite.

Today, Hungary must surely be experiencing a sense of deja vu after the European Union handed it fines of €200 million for defying EU immigration law, and an additional €1 million per day from now on for refusing to take in “asylum seekers”.

In 2020 Budapest passed a law saying those wishing to apply for asylum would have to do so from its embassies in Belgrade or Kyiv and it has detained those who have made applications in transit camps between border fences. Last year only 20 applications were made. This policy was denounced as illegal by the European Court whose rulings Budapest has simply ignored.

Hungary claims it is enforcing European immigration policy by blocking the route through the Western Balkans taken by over one million migrants in 2015. Yet the European Court sees this as an “unprecedented and exceptionally serious breach of EU law”. Hungarian premier Orban’s response? ‘it seems illegal migrants are more important to the Brussels bureaucrats than their own European citizens. We will not give into financial blackmail. We will protect the borders and protect the Hungarian people.’

If the logic of EU policy is bizarre – punishing Hungary for successfully protecting its borders while failing to protect those on the EU’s Mediterranean coasts – the timing of the Court’s judgements is also peculiar. First, Hungary on 1 July will assume the presidency of the European Council. Secondly, these judgements coincide with general elections in both France and the UK, immediately after European elections which saw a swing to the “far Right” in France, Germany and Italy and elsewhere.

In France the highlighting of issues such as immigration policy, the aggressive stand of EU institutions against a member state, and the very nature of national sovereignty within the EU, cannot fail but give impetus to the claims of the Eurosceptic National Rally of Bordalla and Le Pen.

Here in Britain, the Tories, not to mention Farage, can use these developments to warn voters against Starmer’s plans to develop a common immigration policy with Brussels. How many illegal immigrants would he take in from Italy, Greece and Spain? Thank God for Brexit.