2015. 02. 13.
With emerging conflicts and instability in the EU’s immediate neighbourhood, the economic and security situation in Europe has changed dramatically in recent years. Furthermore, the terrorist attacks in Paris last month and the occasionally heated debate that followed those tragic events have once again put the subject of immigration – particularly the challenge of illegal immigration – in the spotlight. The debate is anything but new. However, the statistics show that where the older EU Member States have been dealing with the issue for quite some time, the newer Member States like Hungary have just recently begun to confront this as a significant problem. In 2014, the number of persons requesting refugee status in Hungary reached 42,777, nearly 20 times higher than the number in 2012. That’s an astonishing increase.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán reiterated the position of the European People’s Party: the effects of immigration must be discussed openly and frankly and illegal immigration must be stopped. Failing to face the challenge runs the risk of losing disenchanted voters to the radicals and their manipulative demagoguery. The prime minister’s comments were widely covered, but they were no different than what he said not so long ago at the European Council debate and were in line with the EPP’s and President Juncker’s message.
Immigration remains a complicated issue. Clearly there is a difference between those who cross the border illegally because they are fleeing persecution, armed conflict or other grave hardship and those who enter the EU in search of better living standards and a more abundant social safety net. Political asylum seekers merit protection and require response based on our humanitarian responsibility. However we have to distinguish refugees from illegal, economic immigrants, even if sometimes their cases demand sensitivity and nuance. Opening the borders to illegal immigrants with different cultural backgrounds may have many undesirable consequences.
Legal migration to a new job market is a separate issue that should remain within the national competence of Member States, keeping in mind that immigration cannot be the ultimate solution for the EU's demographic problems.
We need a frank debate on the issue as illegal immigration poses a problem today. Failing to confront the problem and postponing honest discussion of the possible solutions means that it will likely only get worse before it gets better.