Hungary to seal border with Croatia

Hungary's hardline Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday that Budapest eventually plans to seal its border with Croatia to stop the influx of tens of thousands of migrants bound for northern Europe.

Hungary to seal border with Croatia
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban. Photo: Photo: Barna Burger/Hungarian Govt

“The influx of migrants is not going to abate… We want to stop people crossing,” Orban told reporters in Vienna after a meeting aimed at smoothing over differences with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann.

“Introducing the border protection to Serbia has met expectations. Our duty is to make it happen on the Hungarian-Croatian border as well,” he said.

Orban said however that he would seek to secure international support before closing the border.

Hungary has seen more than 250,000 migrants enter the country this year, travelling up from Greece through the western Balkans and hoping to make it to northern Europe, in particular Germany and Sweden.

Tobias Plate, a spokesman for Germany's interior ministry, said Friday that it's estimated that “30 percent of asylum seekers claiming to be Syrian in the end aren't Syrian.”

Refugees waiting to cross the border from Serbia into Croatia.  Photo: Joergen D.

Borders sealed with Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia

On September 15 Hungary effectively sealed its Serbian border — the main route into Hungary — with razor wire and by barring the official crossing points.

This has since diverted 55,000 people in the past nine days into Croatia.

But Croatia, overwhelmed by the new arrivals, has been transferring them to its border with Hungary, which then transports them to the Austrian frontier.

Hungary has also begun closing off the 41-kilometre (25.5-mile) stretch of its border with Croatia not covered by the uncrossable Drava river.

At present, migrants are entering Hungary from Croatia via official border crossing points.

Hungary announced on Thursday that it has also started to roll out barbed wire along its border with Slovenia, the first such known measure between two members of Europe's passport-free Schengen zone.

According to Orban, the fence with Slovenia is temporary, and if necessary “can be cleaned up in a day”, he told reporters.

Meanwhile, Croatia reopened its border with Serbia after a dispute between the two countries over their respective migrant policies.

Croatian police said Friday the border is now open “to all traffic without restrictions.”



‘Discrimination’: Austria’s benefit cuts for immigrants ‘go against free movement’

Benefit cuts imposed by Austria on immigrants whose children live in their country of origin contradict EU law becasue they constitute "discrimination on the ground of nationality", a legal adviser at the bloc's top court said on Thursday.

A picture of the sign and logo of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg
A picture of the sign and logo of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg on January 13, 2020. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)

The opinion is the latest legal hitch to befall a series of measures — imposed by a previous government that included the far-right — which sought to restrict benefit payments to foreigners.

Richard de la Tour, advocate general of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), said the cuts to child benefits constituted “an infringement of the right of free movement conferred on EU citizens”.

The specific case relates to reforms that came into effect in 2019 which indexed child benefits according to where the recipient’s children live.

This meant reduced payments for tens of thousands of eastern Europeans who work in Austria — notably in the care sector — but whose children remain in their countries of origin.

The advocate general’s advice is not binding on the court but it is seen as influential.

De la Tour found that the cuts were “indirect discrimination on the ground of nationality which is permissible only if it is objectively justified”, and that Austria had failed to do so.

They contravened the principle that “if a migrant worker pays social contributions and taxes in a member state, he or she must be able to benefit from the same allowances as nationals of that state”, he added.

In 2020 the European Commission, supported by six eastern member states, brought an action before the CJEU claiming Austria was “failing to fulfil its obligations”.

Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had said he hoped the cuts would save 114 million euros ($130 million) a year but in 2019 they recouped 62 million euros.

The former coalition also introduced benefit cuts for immigrants who failed to reach a certain level of German, but those measures were subsequently overturned by the Austrian courts.

The government that introduced in the cuts was brought down in a corruption scandal in May 2019.

It included the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (OeVP), which is still the senior partner in the current government.

However their current coalition partners, the Greens, opposed the benefit cuts at the time.