Balog: Europe dividing along regional lines

September 16, 2016


Foreign Minister of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn and European Parliament President Martin Schulz “endanger the cohesion of Europe” claimed Hungarian Minister of Human Resources Zoltán Balog in an interview with German paper Die Welt.

Balog was responding to statements Asselborn made in the same paper that Hungary should be excluded from the European Union.

“Countries like Hungary which build fences to keep out those seeking refuge from war, which violate freedom of the press, and which violate the independence of the judiciary, should be temporarily or permanently excluded from the European Union,” Asselborn told the German daily last Tuesday.

EP President Schulz sharply criticized Asselborn’s comments, calling them “complete nonsense.” Still, Schulz has been a vocal critic of the Hungarian government, especially its immigration policy.

In response to these criticisms, Balog called Asselborn “irrelevant,” and said both he and Schulz “embody a kind of European politician which is dangerous.”

“These politicians have no sense of reality, they don’t have any real solutions to the problems, they just aggressively look for scapegoats,” Balog said.

Europe’s scapegoat

Hungary as Europe’s scapegoat has become a theme in the recent rhetoric of the ruling party. Citing the construction of a fence along Hungary’s southern border, the government plays the role of “protector of Europe” and bemoans the ungrateful treatment it gets in response.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó fired back at Asselborn with just such comments, claiming that “throughout history Hungary has always protected Europe, and that is what it is doing now.”

Moving in different directions

Balog claimed in Die Welt that regional divides are growing in Europe, and that the Visegrád Group (V4) countries (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia) represents a Central European block that shares a common interest. Northern and southern European countries are also moving in their own directions, he said, which poses the question of what role Germany can play in his imagined European landscape.

Germany is “ideally situated to bridge the differences between Central and Western Europe, which never had to suffer under communist tyranny,” he said.

European leaders are meeting at a special summit in Bratislava today to discuss, among other things, solutions to the dispute over EU migrant resettlement quotas. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has promised that the Visegrád group would present a plan to tackle the EU’s problems, which he said would “be an important moment in the life of these four countries”.

Recently, Orbán has been talking more about the V4, which he claims to represent, adding to Balog’s assertion that Europe is dividing along regional lines. In a visit to Bulgaria this week, Orbán pledged to assist in the protection of Bulgaria’s borders with the help of the V4 countries.