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Ahead of U.N Summit, Luxembourg Suggests Hungary Should Leave the EU

Hungary's foreign minister called his counterpart in Luxembourg an "intellectual lightweight" in response to demands Hungary change refugee policies.

Refugees stand behind a fence at the Hungarian border with Serbia near the town of Horgos on September 16, 2015. Europe's 20-year passport-free Schengen zone appeared to be a risk of crumbling with Germany boosting border controls on parts of its frontier with France as migrants desperate to find a way around Hungary's border fence began crossing into Croatia. With a string of EU countries tightened frontier controls in the face of the unprecedented human influx, the cherished principle of free movement across borders -- a pillar of the European project -- seemed in grave jeopardy.  / AFP / ARMEND NIMANI        (Photo credit should read ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Refugees stand behind a fence at the Hungarian border with Serbia near the town of Horgos on September 16, 2015. Europe's 20-year passport-free Schengen zone appeared to be a risk of crumbling with Germany boosting border controls on parts of its frontier with France as migrants desperate to find a way around Hungary's border fence began crossing into Croatia. With a string of EU countries tightened frontier controls in the face of the unprecedented human influx, the cherished principle of free movement across borders -- a pillar of the European project -- seemed in grave jeopardy. / AFP / ARMEND NIMANI (Photo credit should read ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Last year, the Hungarian government made clear its hesitance about accepting refugees when it ordered police to use tear gas and water cannons against families of asylum-seekers who tried to cross into Hungary from Serbia.

Now, ahead of a Friday meeting in Slovakia when European leaders will meet to determine how the European Union can best handle the refugee crisis moving forward, Luxembourg has a message for the conservative government in Budapest: It’s time to leave the EU.

“Hungary is not far away from issuing orders to open fire on refugees,” Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said in an interview published by German daily Die Welt on Tuesday.

According to Asselborn, Hungary’s treatment of refugees amounts to a “massive violation” of EU values, and should result in Hungary either being suspended from or forced out of the government bloc.

Hungarians will vote in an Oct. 2 referendum to determine whether or not they want to accept future EU quotas to house refugees. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán vehemently opposes the quotas, and is urging citizens to vote in favor of the October referendum.

On Tuesday, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Asselborn’s comments reinforce his earlier reputation as an “intellectual lightweight.” He then went on to call his counterpart in Luxembourg  “sermonising, pompous, and frustrated,” and a “classic nihilist” who is committed to destroying European culture.

Szijjarto added in the same statement released by his office that EU leaders who push others to “share the burden” of refugees really mean that “Hungary should take on the burden created by the mistakes of others.”

Hungary and Slovakia are already bringing the EU to court over a forced relocation plan that requires member states to accept certain numbers of refugees who are currently being held in holding centers where they are waiting to be processed and resettled. According to the Hungarian government, some 17,000 migrants and asylum-seekers have crossed illegally into Hungary this year, prompting Budapest to increase the number of security officials at the Serbian border from 6,000 to 10,000 each day.

This summer, Hungary passed a law that allows them to return illegal migrants to the Serbian border if they’re caught within five miles of the border.

Although the Hungarian government has repeatedly defended its treatment of refugees and claims to have the right to decide who lives in Hungary, human rights groups have repeatedly accused the government of violating refugees’ rights to seek asylum. The October referendum vote will come shortly after a high-level summit at the United Nations intended to solve some of the problems surrounding refugee relocation. But human rights advocates, including Amnesty International, have little hope that meeting will provide any concrete results.

“We already know the U.N. summit is doomed to abject failure, while the Obama summit looks unlikely to pick up the pieces,” Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said in a statement on Tuesday, referencing a U.S. initiative to ask world leaders to commit to specific refugee resettlement numbers.

Photo credit: ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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