Tue, Apr 17, 2018 - Page 9 News List

Hungary is winning its immigration crusade

International pressure is not what will soften Hungarian hearts. The only thing capable is evidence that aging countries need foreigners

By Leonid Bershidsky  /  Bloomberg View

If the legislation takes effect as drafted, the groups would be forced to obtain licenses from the government to “help immigration” — a process Gyulai doubts his group would be able to complete.

Even if it succeeds, it would have to pay a 25 percent tax on all foreign contributions, including not just contributions from Soros charities, but also from EU and UN organizations. The group’s lawyers, who helped 234 clients get asylum last year (out of the total of 1,216 who received protection in Hungary), could be banned from the detention camps and even the border area.

Even though various European and international institutions have condemned Hungary, the Orban government is willing to take a stand. To the Orbanites, it is a matter of national sovereignty, the core of their political creed.

I asked Kovacs why the government could not make a deal with the EU, relieve the political pressure it faces and let in a couple of thousand refugees who could easily be absorbed.

He would have none of it.

“All trouble always looks minor when it starts,” he said. “We can’t have our ability to decide for ourselves gradually eroded.”

I doubt that international pressure can achieve much except provoking Orban to step up his anti-refugee, anti-Muslim and anti-NGO campaigns. It would not make Hungarians nicer to the kind of newcomers that they do not want.

The only possible solution to the Hungarian refugee issue is political: Not even Orban can hold on to power forever. A more welcoming culture is a matter of political change. Absent such change, the government would keep asserting its sovereignty. Any reluctant concessions that it could make to EU governing bodies and courts would be matched by further restrictive measures.

The best other European countries can do is demonstrate that Muslim immigrants can be successfully integrated to society’s benefit. It is a long game, but if it goes well, hard evidence would eventually convince those who do not understand yet that, unaided, Europe’s aging demographics are unsustainable.

Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion Web site Slon.ru.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

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