No one in Brussels wants to say it out loud, but Viktor Orbán is winning the migration debate.
The Hungarian prime minister may be much maligned in European capitals for his anti-immigrant rhetoric, his opposition to the EU’s refugee relocation policy, and for building a border fence.
But look closely at how EU leaders now talk about the issue and the policies they’ve adopted since the 2015 crisis, and it’s clear Orbán’s preference for interdiction over integration has somehow prevailed.
There was an echo of Orbán’s long-standing call for tougher border controls in Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s claim in his State of the Union speech this week that “We are now protecting Europe’s external borders more effectively.”
At other points in the speech, it could easily have been the Hungarian premier speaking, as Juncker emphasized efforts to stop migrants before they leave Africa and return those who reach Europe’s shores. “When it comes to returns: People who have no right to stay in Europe must be returned to their countries of origin,” said Juncker.
While Hungary and Slovakia recently lost their fight against the EU’s relocation scheme at the European Court of Justice, the facts on the ground show that the legal victory for Brussels was hollow…