Virginia Mayo / AP

Hungary PM: Up to half a million Syrian refugees to head to EU from Turkey

Victor Orban said the plan to resettle the refugees will come as a ‘nasty surprise’ to Europeans

Hungary has sealed its borders with Serbia and Croatia to stop the flow of refugees.
Matt Cardy / Getty Images

European Union and Turkish leaders may announce a behind-the-scenes agreement later this week to resettle 400,000 to 500,000 Syrian refugees from Turkey to the EU, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Wednesday.

Orban has locked horns with EU partners for years over economic policy, political freedoms and, most recently, the handling of the refugee crisis, in which he took a hard line and erected a steel fence along the country's southern border to keep out refugees.

Hungary has firmly resisted the idea of resettlement quotas to more evenly distribute the refugees, most of whom want to go to Germany or Sweden.

Addressing a meeting of Hungarian leaders in Budapest, Orban said he expected intense pressure from other European nations to accept some of those refugees —something he said Budapest could not do.

He added that the agreement was floated at a recent EU summit in Malta but was abandoned and was not included in the EU-Turkey agreements signed over the weekend in Brussels after its proponents could not gather the necessary support for it.

"The issue [of resettlement] will be a hot potato in the coming period because even though this could be kept in a semisecret state," Orban said, "someone somewhere — I think in Berlin this week — will announce that [400,000] to 500,000 Syrian refugees could be brought straight from Turkey to the EU."

"This nasty surprise still awaits Europeans," he said.

He alluded to the deal being orchestrated by Germany and said it could frame the political discourse in Europe in the next few days and weeks and said, "The pressure will be intense on us and the other Visegrad Four countries [Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic]."

"They will portend that once the agreement is made by certain parties — and to avoid diplomatic complications, I will not tell you which country Berlin is in — we should not only bring these people to Europe but divide them among ourselves, as an obligation."

"It will not be an easy one because, obviously, we cannot accept it like this," Orban said.

Wire services

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