Merkel Rejects EU ‘Fortress’ in Clash With Hungary on Migration

(Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she opposes turning Europe into a fortress against refugees, exposing the continent’s rift on migration in a public clash with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Fresh from a deal within her party bloc that calls for stronger measures to prevent asylum seekers from traveling around Europe, Merkel said that while it’s right for Hungary to protect its border, the EU also has humanitarian responsibilities.

“We do protect our outer borders, but not with the goal of just walling ourselves off and talking about a kind of fortress,” Merkel said at an animated joint news conference after hosting Orban in Berlin on Wednesday. “The difference is that if we want to uphold Europe’s soul, if we want to play a role in the world with these values, then Europe can’t simply disengage.”

Orban said the solution is to close Europe’s external borders and provide assistance to potential migrants in Africa and Asia to stop them coming. Hungarians are “offended” by accusations in Germany that they lack solidarity, he said.
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“We think we must be humane in a way that doesn’t exert any pull factor,” he said. “We don’t want to import problems, that’s the difference in viewpoint between us.”

A clash over migration threatened to break up Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc over the last three weeks after her Bavarian CSU sister party, which has sided with Orban on the issue, demanded tighter border controls.

Merkel brokered a compromise with the CSU on Monday that calls for holding centers at the German frontier for refugees already registered in other EU countries.

Orban said if Hungary’s army didn’t protect the borders with Serbia and Croatia, as many as 5,000 migrants would arrive in Germany daily.

“That’s what we are defending you from,” he said. “That is solidarity, strong solidarity I think.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.