Hungary declares state of emergency after closure of Balkan migrant route

By bne IntelliNews March 9, 2016

The Hungarian government declared a state of emergency on March 9, claiming the EU agreement reached the previous day to close the Western Balkan migrant route towards the bloc could have "unknown consequences".

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has used a hardline stance on the migrant crisis to boost his popularity at home, and his standing on the European stage. However, it appears that with the EU moving to meet one of his major demands, Orban feels the need to keep himself in the headlines.

On March 7, Hungary claimed to have vetoed a deal with Turkey on the resettlement of migrants, despite the fact that the agreement was opposed by several states and may be approved anyway at a follow-up summit  later this month.

Analysts and opposition leaders tell bne IntelliNews Orban now feels he strides a larger stage than just Hungary, as nationalist parties surge in polls across the bloc. Hungarian government officials recently insisted that Europe now understands that Budapest's hardline stance is the "correct" one.

The declaration of an emergency situation by Budapest comes after the Balkan routes were closed for refugees late on March 8, with Slovenia declaring it was bringing in stricter checks. An average of 100 refugees have been entering Hungary illegally through the southern border per day in recent weeks. However, reports say no migrants have entered Serbia or crossed from Serbia to Croatia since midnight on March 8, according to MTI.

However, Minister of Interior Sandor Pinter announced the move to a state of emergency on March 9. “We don't know how the migrants will react after closing the Balkan routes,” he claimed. “1,500 troops from the army are taking part in this action, so if the migrants would appear at the borders, we will be able to stop them."

The official also said Hungary is ready to seal off its border with Romania, although the government does not currently see such a  move as necessary. Budapest, which caused controversy last year when it built razor wire fences on the borders with Serbia and Croatia, has mentioned it could add Romania to the list numerous times in recent months.

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