‘We are facing another major migration crisis in Europe,’ says EPP’s Weber, a longtime foe of Hungary’s tough immigration policy

Chairman of the European People's Party group of the European Parliament Manfred Weber speaks during a session one year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
By Dénes Albert
4 Min Read

What was an unacceptable solution a few years ago may now be a necessity, according to the leadership of the European People’s Party (EPP). Party President Manfred Weber has come up with the idea of a border fence to alleviate the migration crisis in Europe, despite having previously criticized the Hungarian government led by Viktor Orbán for installing fences in 2016 to stem the migration crisis.

In an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Weber said if necessary, border fences should be used to curb mass illegal immigration.

“We are facing another major migration crisis in Europe. Therefore, the European People’s Party fully supports the Italian government in making this issue a priority at the European level. We need common action,” Weber said in response to the declaration of a state of emergency in Italy due to the dramatic increase in migratory pressure.

The Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) politician has gone back and forth on the question of border fences in the past. Four years ago, while speaking about then President Donald Trump’s plan to build a fence on the U.S.-Mexican border, he said, “We do not build walls, we want to build bridges. Europe must be ready for a close partnership with Mexico.”

The leader of the EPP, however, has now warned of the consequences of the recent increase in the number of refugees in the Italian daily. Remix News has reported that Italy has declared a state of emergency over the migration crisis, with predictions warning that up to 50,000 migrants could be arriving in Italy this summer if current rates continue.

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Weber said he believes that concrete solidarity measures with Italy on migration are needed from other EU countries. That is why the EPP group, which effectively forced Orbán’s Fidesz party out in 2021, has this week launched a special debate in the European Parliament.

Weber and Orbán have long been at odds. Before Orbán’s party left the EPP, Orbán wrote a letter to Weber in which he decried the EPP’s slide from conservative stances toward progressive positions.

“We gave up the family model based on matrimony of one woman and one man, and fell into the arms of gender ideology. Instead of supporting the birth of children, we see mass migration as the solution to our demographic problem,” Orbán wrote at the time.

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Even though Weber was instrumental in pushing Orbán out of the EPP, Weber is today warning of an immigration emergency.

“If illegal immigration cannot be stopped in any other way, we must be prepared to build fences,” said the German politician. Meanwhile, Tunisia has replaced Libya as the major transit hub for illegal immigrants. According to reports, 57 percent of migrants arriving in Italy come from Tunisia on smugglers’ boats. It cannot be ruled out that the 2022 figure of 330,000 migrants will be exceeded this summer.

Although the Hungarian government has repeatedly said the EU must help finance border fencing, the Brussels authorities, including Weber, have done nothing to make this happen.

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