Hungary built a wall to keep out migrants. It now wants the EU to help pay for it

Keep out.
Keep out.
Image: Reuters/Laszlo Balogh
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Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán is taking a page out of Donald Trump’s playbook; he wants someone else to help pay for the country’s anti-migrant wall.

In 2015 and 2016, Orbán responded to Europe’s refugee crisis with a razor-wire fence on its border with Serbia and later with Croatia to keep migrants out. The border protection has cost Hungary €800 million. Orbán is now calling on the European Union (EU) to pay for at least half of it.

At a press conference held yesterday (Aug 31), government spokesman Zoltán Kovács, Lázár called on the EU to pay for the border fence, saying, “We would like to see solidarity manifested in specific actions, rather than in mere messages.” Lázár insisted Hungary was not only protecting itself, but “every citizen of the continent against the flood of illegal immigrants.”

The spokesperson pointed out that the EU had already given millions in aid to Greece, Italy, and Bulgaria (countries that have borne the brunt of the refugee crisis), and said its time Hungary received financial aid as well. Orbán laid out his request in a letter, which he has sent to Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission.

The letter echoes Trump’s infamous campaign promise to build an “impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall” along the US-Mexico border—and make Mexico pay for it. (Hurricane Harvey may, however, have destroyed Trump’s proposed border wall before a single brick is laid.)

Orbán’s request isn’t likely to be accepted (or taken seriously). EU leaders have widely criticized (paywall) Hungary for building fences and arresting asylum seekers during the height of Europe’s refugee crisis. In June this year, the European Commission opened a legal case against Hungary, as well as Poland and the Czech Republic, for refusing to take in asylum seekers

This isn’t the first time Orbán has replicated Trump’s rhetoric. Once Trump was elected, Orbán was quick to ape Trump’s campaign slogan, calling for making “Europe great again.” Orbán has even claimed that Trump inspired its latest policy to detain asylum seekers.