As Schengen crumbles, Orban becomes the face of Europe

“I truly believe it’s an ideological victory for Viktor Orban,” said Jean Quatremer to Euronews on Tuesday, the Brussels correspondent for Libération.

Hungary was now the first to put up a barbed wire fence in Europe, Greece and Bulgaria had in fact preceded him; but, he was the first to use a barbed wire fence to deal with the asylum crisis. And he was the first to line up a barbed wire fence along a Schengen zone border, first with Croatia, then with Slovenia. Now, everyone has got one and the Schengen area is fraying.

Slovakia’s Fico administration only accepts Christian refugees and in small numbers. He is really hardly distinguishable from the position of the new Polish government, which is theoretically seating on the polar opposite side of the ideological spectrum, along with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the British Conservative Party.

Sweden and Denmark are now tightening of border controls, putting to sleep a number of {positive} Scandinavian stereotypes. Sweden introduced border controls with Denmark on Monday, January 4th. That is a major disruption, as there are 8,600 daily commuters between Copenhagen and the southern Swedish city of Malmö who now must rethink their lives. Denmark followed through with its borders with Germany, checking IDs of anyone passing for the first time in 50 years.

Of course the difference is that Sweden has taken in 160,000-to-300,000 asylum seekers this year, depending on the estimate, second only to Germany, but with a population that 9,5 million. Denmark received 18,000, but is also introducing a law to seize their belongings to pay for the cost of their accommodation.

It should be recalled that the Danish “tough stand” on immigration did not start with Rasmussen’s current far-right administration, but under the Social Democratic government of Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who paradoxically went after the top job at the helm of UNHCR.

Germany begs to differ, but in fact it is Chancellor Angela Merkel that begs to differ and she is increasingly alone.  Horst Seehofer, the President of the Christian Social Union (CSU), that is, the Bavarian sister party of the ruling Christian Democrats in Germany, is breaking ranks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on asylum policy. Seehofer told Bild on Sunday that Germany should limit the flow of refugees to no more than 200,000 a year.

On Monday, Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for the Chancellor, made clear that the proposed upper limit of 200,000 for 2016 “is not the chancellor’s position.” Chancellor Merkel’s standing position on dealing with the asylum crisis is strengthening Schengen outside borders and distributing asylum seekers among the 28-member states.

Seehofer controversial interview with “Bild am Sonntag” newspaper came ahead of his party’s annual conference in the Wildbad Kreuth resort, which both Chancellor Merkel and the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, will attend. According to Seibert, the disagreement between Merkel and Seehofer is known and “the discussion in Kreuth will be an open one, as ever.”

Following Denmark’s closing of the border with Germany, on Tuesday, the German Foreign Ministry spokesman, Martin Schaefer, commented that “freedom of movement (…) is one of the biggest achievements” and “Schengen is very important but it is in danger.”

That’s an understatement. Next to Angela Merkel and in defense of freedom of movement stands Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. But, increasingly, the face of Europe is Orban.


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