The Polish and Hungarian opposition to a joint European Union position on combating the illegal entry into the EU by immigrants is both “weird” and childish, said Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday. “It’s a bit like throwing your toys out of the box because you’re angry,” he said after the EU summit in Brussels. The EU leaders parted ways without a consensus statement, when normally they find a compromise.
The deal agreed to by 25 of the EU countries calls on Member States to accept a certain number of relocated asylum seekers, finance operational details including staffing, or pay 20,000 euros per rejected applicant.
Poland and Hungary were furious that the other EU countries pushed through agreements on the reception and distribution of migrants. “So terribly angry” that they are blocking a joint EU statement about reducing the arrival of unwelcome migrants, despite the fact they actually agree with it, said Rutte. “Weird, actually,” the prime minister continued.
“But okay, it’s allowed,” Rutte shrugs. He said he expects that their grumpiness will not hinder the implementation of the agreements, and when it comes down to it, he believes the European leaders will stand together when it comes to reducing the influx.
“They didn’t throw the cake against the wall, they just didn’t eat it. But we can just eat our cake,” Rutte summarized. He dismissed the spat as a “family quarrel” that is simply part of life. He does, of course, want that “they to return as soon as possible and start working together again”, especially in light of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
European Union rules do not require unanimity, but Hungary and Poland demanded that all 27 Member States must from now on agree to proposals on the reception, distribution, and return of asylum seekers. That went too far for the other European Union leaders.
Rutte is not afraid that Poland and Hungary will be driven into each other’s arms again on other issues as a result of their joint resistance. As a tandem, they were more easily able to frustrate EU plans in recent years, but “Russian aggression” has exposed a rift between the two, according to Rutte. “Of course they disagree completely. Poland is on one extreme and Hungary on the other. So they won’t get together there.”
The result of the clash between Hungary and Poland and the 25 other Member States is that no conclusive joint statement was adopted regarding migration and asylum after the EU summit. However, EU President Charles Michel himself issued a written statement.
He pointed out that Poland and Hungary did agree “there is a need to find consensus on an effective migration and asylum policy, that, in the context of solidarity measures, relocation and resettlement should be on a voluntary basis and that all forms of solidarity should be considered equally valid and not serve as a potential pull factor for irregular migration.”
Then, in a spoken explanation, Michel said that 25 of the 27 Member States support the substantive migration agreements and the process followed, and they want to continue with their implementation. “Two Member States disagree with the process and content. They interpret it differently,” said Michel. Hungary and Poland believe that the migration pact should not have been adopted by a qualified majority, but that unanimity was needed.
An agreement was reached on that pact in early June. After years of wrangling, agreements were made about asylum procedures and the reception and distribution of asylum seekers across Europe. Only Poland and Hungary voted against the plan. Lithuania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Malta abstained. According to Michel, these four countries still expressed their support during the summit.
“We will continue to implement the migration pact,” he stressed. “We will keep a cool head. There wasn’t unanimity, but there was a great deal of convergence, which was not at all there just a few years ago.” According to him, implementation of the pact will reduce the asylum pressure in Europe.
It is rare for leaders to fail to reach joint conclusions at all on an important issue on the agenda. It is very important to them to radiate unity. But diplomats vehemently denied that the failure was actually a failure, and they shifted all blame onto the two troublemakers.
Reporting by ANP
Image Mark Rutte with Charles Michel at the European Council Roundtable. 30 June 2023 – Credit: European Union / European Council – License: All Rights Reserved