The Prime Minister of Hungary has said a second line of fences along the border will be finished by May as he warns it is “not smart policy” to rely solely on Turkey to keep migrants out of the EU.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that plans were well under way to finish the construction on the border with Serbia but warned that recent conflict with Turkey could mean more migrants entering the EU.
He added: “It is definitely not smart policy that we place our safety in the hands of the Turks, and at the same time we keep pestering them, attacking them, criticising them that they are not democratic enough and generating conflicts with them.”
Turkey and Brussels agreed to a deal last year that promised Turkey €3 billion of EU aid money to help look after 3 million refugees, plus visa-free travel for its citizens.
In return, Turkey agreed to take back up to 72,000 migrants and stem the flow of people trying to entre the EU through the country. The deal reduced the flow of migrants attempting to cross the sea to Greece by 85 per cent.
But since the terms were agreed Brussels has stalled on the visa-free travel clause because of Turkey’s refusal to reform its anti-terrorism laws and Turkey have been involved in a series of clashes with EU officials. Turkish politicians have since threatened to scrap the deal.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has compared Germany and the Netherlands to fascists and Nazis for stopping Turkish politicians from rallying to promote a referendum granting him sweeping new powers. Erdogan on Thursday said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had lost the friendship of Ankara after the diplomatic row.
Earlier this week Mevlut Cavusoglu, the country’s foreign minister, said: “Turkey has no obligation at this stage to continue the agreement since the EU has failed to comply with it.”
Another statement from Turkey’s EU minister Omer Celik said: “It has emerged that the EU has not kept its word. I am saying this personally: Turkey does not have any obligation to the other side concerning the implementation of this deal.
“Hence it can reassess it when it wants and in the way it wants. I think the time has come to review it.”
A spokesperson for the German government said there are no signs that the deal has been suspended by Ankara.
The spokesman added that the number of migrants arriving in Greece continued to be very low in the last few days.
There have also been tensions between Austria and Turkey.
Austria, which is not a NATO member but cooperates with the alliance, led calls last year to halt Turkey’s European Union accession talks. Vienna has also spoken out against Turkish politicians holding rallies in European countries.
NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg today urged the two countries resolve a diplomatic dispute that has led to some cooperation programmes being blocked.
Turkey, a NATO ally, has withdrawn from some alliance participation – mostly military training – saying the move is aimed only at Austria.
He said: “It is a very unfortunate situation and it means some cooperation programmes can’t be launched,” Stoltenberg told reporters during a visit to the Danish capital Copenhagen.
“It’s a bilateral situation between Turkey and Austria and we strongly urge them to solve it, so that it won’t have negative consequences for the cooperation.”
The new fences are not the first measure that Hungary has turned to in a bid to stop migrants entering the country.
Earlier this month a law was passed to detain all migrants in border camps, despite UN warnings of “terrible physical and psychological impact”.
The measures, passed by parliament, also sought tighten controls on Hungary’s border with Serbia, which has been a focal point of Europe’s migration crisis since 2015 as it marks the external frontier of the EU’s passport-free Schengen area.
Hundreds of thousands of people have crossed into the country in the last two years.