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Politics & Government

Hungarian Prime Minister Says Migrants Are Germany's Problem

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There were tense meetings of European leaders in Brussels today. And they showed just how divided the European Union is over the fate of the asylum-seekers. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports that Hungary's prime minister was not well-received.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Prime Minister Viktor Orban told reporters in Brussels he plans to send Hungarian soldiers to the southern border with Serbia to stop new migrants from entering his country.

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VIKTOR ORBAN: The problem is not a European problem. The problem is a German problem. Nobody would like to stay in Hungary. All of them would like to go to Germany. Our job is only to register them.

NELSON: Martin Schulz, who stood next to Orban, was seething. The European Parliament president later said he's had enough of EU members acting in their own self-interest.

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MARTIN SCHULZ: What we are seeing, for the time being, is egoism instead of common European sense. And let's be honest. This is a crucial moment for the European Union. If we will not facing that challenge, the deeper split of the Union is a risk we cannot exclude.

NELSON: Schulz says European Commission president, during the next Wednesday's State of the Union address, will announce steps to redistribute asylum-seekers within the 28-member block. That could relieve the pressure on Hungary and other border countries. Schulz also pressed for EU countries to streamline the asylum process in order to more quickly let migrants know whether they can stay or must go.

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SCHULZ: (Speaking German).

NELSON: He says, "we need joint rules. Why, in one country, like the Netherlands, does it take 10 days, while in other countries, like Germany, it takes, on average, five-and-a-half months?" Josef Janning, who heads the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, says it's no surprise that things are this disjointed.

JOSEF JANNING: The EU, in general, is rather weak when it comes to reacting fast. This oftentimes doesn't look good, but that's how Europe works. We don't act proactively. We'd rather respond, and we'd rather respond late because member states are not eager to give up their own way of doing things.

NELSON: The fragmented approach is compounding problems for refugees and migrants, says Eugenio Ambrosi, who is the International Organization for Migration's regional director in Brussels. He says politicians exaggerate the influx, and that is what is creating this chaotic response.

EUGENIO AMBROSI: I think it's important that Europe gets out of this attitude that talks about Europe being invaded by refugees and migrants because that is not the case. If we look only at the refugees from Syria and a few other war-torn country, roughly 6 percent of the overall world refugee population is in Europe.

NELSON: Ambrosi predicts if Orban is successful in closing Hungary's borders, the only real change will be to drive up the fees paid to smugglers. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.