When the third Orbán government decided to erect a razor-wire fence on Hungary’s southern border to stop the influx of refugees in the summer of 2015, the move was met with a storm of indignation from opposition parties with the exception of radical right-wing party Jobbik.
Two years later, however, even some of Prime Minister Orbán’s loudest critics admit that they would keep the fence should they win the national election next year. Abcug.hu contacted the opposition parties to learn their official position on the fence.
Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP)
Then-party chairman József Tóbiás’ first reaction was: “How could we sink to this point?” Tóbiás also said that “we don’t have to install razor wire but tear it down, like 25 years ago,” a reference to the Hungarian government’s decision in 1989 to open its fortified western border and let East German refugees flee to the west. In 2015 Tóbiás referred to the fence as the “icing on the cake” for Fidesz’s hateful campaign targeting refugees and asylum-seekers.
In a Facebook post, former MSZP chairman and prime ministerial candidate Attila Mesterházy reacted: “I can’t find the words…more precisely I can, but they are unprintable.” MSZP’s Budapest chair Ágnes Kunhalmi said that “These idiots haven’t learned anything from the history of humanity.”
According to MSZP’s answer, the party seems to have reconciled with the fence over the past two years:
“MSZP’s standpoint is that the fence will remain as long as Hungarian people are afraid. This, of course, does not mean that the border fence is the real solution. Since as we can remember: despite the border fence, hundreds of thousands passed the country with the Fidesz government’s assistance.”
Politics Can Be Different (LMP)
“Could you please tell me how will the razor wire erected on the Serbian border differ from the Israeli wall that locks Palestinians up into a ghetto?” read then-leader of LMP’s parliamentary delegation András Schiffer’s reaction on Facebook.
Since then LMP’s position has come to resemble Fidesz’s, judging from the party’s official statement:
“Since the outbreak of the migration crisis, LMP has been representing the same standpoint, namely joint border defence and EU-level infrastructure are required that allow the differentiation of refugees and those who arrive with a harmful intent beyond the borders of the EU. The border lockdown does not solve this problem, however it can be a part of a comprehensive EU-level solution.”
Democratic Coalition (DK)
“The government builds upon the worst of instincts when it intends to erect a fence on the border,” DK chairman Ferenc Gyurcsány stated in 2015. The former prime minister’s party even turned to the European Commission because of the barbed wire on the top of the fence. Gyurcsány compared the fence to the Berlin Wall, calling those erecting it immoral.
Although DK refused to answer abcug.hu, they told 444.hu in June that the fence gives many the illusion of safety. So while DK is aware of the fact that this is a result of mendacious propaganda, they too cannot ignore the will of their voters. So the fence would remain.
Dialogue for Hungary (PM)
In June 2015 PM’s youth chapter, Greenfront, protested by sitting down on Kossuth square in front of the Parliament and erected a fence around themselves. From the beginning, PM criticized the fence mostly for its astronomical cost: HUF 22 billion (USD 82.6 million).
The party’s position has not changed much:
“So far we have deemed the construction of the fence useless, as well as its demolition. In our opinion, what is most important is that children and adults fleeing from war can obtain international protection and receive humane care for the duration of a swift and correct asylum procedure. After this, it is a secondary question when the fence that provides a (false) sense of security to many is removed.”
“Within 25 years of tearing down the Iron Curtain we have started building one,” Együtt chairman Péter Juhász commented on his Facebook page in 2015. According to Juhász, his party would still tear down the fence but only with the condition that the EU undertake a comprehensive review of its border policy.
“We oppose the fence and we deem it a bad a solution as we did at the time of its construction, and we would tear it down as soon as possible,” Együtt says. “After the elections, we would terminate transit zones and annul the Fidesz asylum regulations that are contrary to the Geneva Conventions. This means the immediate dismantlement of the “legal fence”. […] in our opinion the fence can be fully dismantled within a single parliamentary cycle and this must happen together with the EU border control reform that would bring tighter security on the borders [of the EU] instead of operating refugee camps and launching the asylum-seeker-dispersing mechanism currently being sabotaged by Hungary.”
Gábor Fodor’s party, which called the fence inhumane and meaningless in 2015, now has a less pronounced position:
“There are various means of controlling the green border. One of them is the fence. We opposed [the fence] because we considered it too expensive, less effective, and the carrier of a very bad message. It is clear that the fence is already standing: dismantling it and the construction of effective alternative border controlling measures would be rather costly.”
Although the party would immediately abolish the alleged electrification of the fence, they would only dismantle it altogether if the risk of mass migration ceased or at least minimized.
As Momentum did not exist at the time of the construction of the fence, the initial position of party leaders is not known. However, the party has made it rather clear recently that they would keep the fence, and in case they were elected, asylum-seekers “would only be permitted to leave the closed facilities on justifiable grounds.”