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Hungary and Poland block (again) an EU joint declaration on migration

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán opposed the section of the EU declaration that centred on migration policy.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán opposed the section of the EU declaration that centred on migration policy. Copyright Manu Fernandez/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Manu Fernandez/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Jorge Liboreiro
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An informal EU summit in Granada, Spain, was overshadowed by the prime ministers of Hungary and Poland, who opposed the section of a joint declaration that focused on migration.

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The outcome of Friday's gathering bypassed any reference to migration, a glaring omission given the recent developments on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

This is not the first time that Viktor Orbán and Mateusz Morawiecki have joined forces to derail a communiqué of the European Council, having done so in late June.

Both instances related to the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, a comprehensive reform of the bloc's migration policy that establishes a system of "mandatory solidarity" to ensure the 27 member states, without exception, contribute to the management and reception of asylum seekers.

The New Pact, which is under negotiations, received on Wednesday a strong boost after the EU Council reached its long-awaited position on the fifth and last piece of the complex puzzle: the Crisis Regulation.

The legislation was approved under the rules of a qualified majority, as foreseen in the EU treaties, which means neither Poland nor Hungary can exercise a veto right.

"We are not afraid of diktats (...) from Berlin and Brussels," Morawiecki said upon arrival, decrying what he described as "draconian penalties."

Viktor Orbán went further, comparing the qualified majority rules with sexual assault.

"There is no chance to have any kind of compromise and agreement on migration. Politically, it's impossible. Not today, but generally speaking, for the next years. Because legally we are, how to say it, we are raped," Orbán told reporters on Friday morning, with a smirk on his face.

"So if you are raped, legally, forced to accept something (that) you don't like, how would you like to have a compromise and agreement?"

The comments, shocking even for Orbán's standards, set the scene for the rest of the day, leading to a widely anticipated failure in the late afternoon.

The blockage forced Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, to publish a separate statement on his own behalf. No reference to migration can be found in the Granada declaration, which instead addresses various economy-oriented issues such as energy, technology and competitiveness.

"The declaration on migration is broadly supported and contains what was contributed by myself and the (European) Commission on the external dimension of migration," Michel told reporters, referring to engagement with countries of origin and transit.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who acted as host, admitted there was a "risk" in trying to include migration in the final text but said what truly mattered was Wednesday's preliminary deal on the Crisis Regulation.

"This is really the relevant part, this is the important fact in political terms," Sánchez said, speaking next to Michel.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who also spoke at the press conference, appeared optimistic and said the New Pact was "on its way."

"There is a very good chance that it will make it over the finish line," von der Leyen said.

The bloc's shared goal is to wrap up negotiations on the New Pact, which was first presented in September 2020, before the next elections to the European Parliament, scheduled to take place in early June next year.

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