Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban insisted Thursday the migrant crisis was a German problem, not a European one as he defended his government’s handling of thousands of refugees flooding into his country.
“The problem is not a European problem, the problem is a German problem,” Orban told a press conference with European Parliament President Martin Schulz in Brussels.
“Nobody wants to stay in Hungary, neither in Slovakia, nor Poland, nor Estonia. All want to go to Germany. Our job is just to register them.”
Orban’s comments came as hundreds of refugees and migrants stormed a train at Budapest’s reopened main international railway station, which has become a flashpoint for people trying to head to western Europe via Hungary.
“We have clear cut regulations at the European level. German Chancellor (Angela Merkel) … said yesterday that nobody could leave Hungary without being registered,” he added.
“If the German chancellor insists that we register them, we will, it is a must.”
Orban has taken a consistently hard line on the migrant crisis engulfing Europe, refusing to accept an EU plan for compulsory quotas for asylum seekers and building a razor wire fence along the border with Serbia in a bid to halt the influx.
Syrian refugees and migrants walk along a railway line as they try to cross from Serbia into Hungary near Horgos, on September 1, 2015
The fence has done little to stem the flow and Hungary remains a key arrival point for tens of thousands of migrants entering the European Union, with some 50,000 arriving in the country in August alone.
Orban was due to hold talks with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and with EU president Donald Tusk, who warned earlier Thursday that divisions between EU member states threatened to scupper efforts to find a common response.
Schulz also warned that the 28 member states had to act as one.
“The European idea is of solidarity; what we see at the moment is egoism and to my mind, this is a real threat to the EU,” he said.
The survey, conducted by German polling company Forsa for weekly news magazine Stern, asked 1,001 people about their opinions on Merkel’s approach to the Greek crisis.
55 per cent said they believed Merkel’s tough attitude to Greece during the negotiations was correct, and almost one third wished that she had taken a much tougher line, by forcing Greece out of the Eurozone.
Only 14 per cent of respondents believed that Greece would actually implement the reforms, which include privatisation of the national electricity network, heavily boosting tax revenue and slimming down the generous pension system – the kind of austerity measures that 61 per cent of Greeks voted against in the referendum on 5 July.
81 per cent said they had serious doubts that the long list of major reforms would actually be implemented.
Oddly, Merkel found high levels of favour amongst supporters of Germany’s Green Party, one of the parties in opposition in the German parliament, the Bundestag.
Two-thirds of Greens said they supported her position – a similar figure to the level of support over the Greece issue within her own Christian Democratic Union party.
While other major Eurozone countries, such as France, presented themselves as allies of Greece in the run-up to the negotiations, the German delegation took a noticeably hard line, pushing for a set of major economic reforms, with finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble putting forward the suggestion that Greece could temporarily leave the Eurozone if the measures were not put in place within a strict timetable.
Reaction in Germany appeared mixed. Some Germans, as evidenced by the poll, backed the tough measures. Others thought they were overly harsh, and amounted to a German effort to humiliate and punish Greece, with major German paper Der Spiegel claiming that over the weekend’s negotiations,
“the German government destroyed seven decades of post-war diplomacy on a single weekend.”
Others criticised the fact that there was a deal in the first placed – the front page of Germany tabloid Bild, the day after the election, carried the headline:
‘Merkel saves Greece with our money’. The paper said that Greece will never pay back its third bailout, which must be voted on in European parliaments before it goes ahead.
Greece has voted “No” to its international creditors’ bailout proposal, supporting the left-wing Syriza Government in a high-stakes referendum.
The Sunday poll, in which Greece voted “No” to its international creditors’ bailout proposal, showed a clear rejection of creditor terms: 61% voted “No,” and just under 39% voted “Yes.” What this result will mean politically, however, is a rather more open question.
One reason has to do with the main actors of the German elite who seem to have presented a conflicted and confused response to the result.
For instance, the German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told the Tagesspiegel newspaper that “the Greek Government is leading the Greeks on a path of bitter sacrifice and hopelessness.”
Yet Germany’s hardline finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, stated rather surprisingly that Greece could exit the eurozone “temporarily.”
Similar cautious remarks were also reiterated by the German foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, who stated in Tagesspiegel am Sonntag that a Grexit would be a “disastrous signal to countries outside the European Union.”
Angela Merkel on her part made no public statements, yet her awareness of the negative geopolitical consequences of a Grexit is well-known.
The Chancellor is also aware of the fact that a Grexit will end the dream that eurozone membership is irrevocable. But again, how Germany’s leadership especially Angela Merkel will respond is still a puzzle, despite the Chancellor’s track record on managing the passing of unpopular legislation.
This last point is especially relevant in case Greece requires a new bailout.
But there is another reason behind the uncertainty. If Greece exits the euro, it will most likely be what the Economist Intelligence Unit calls a “de facto” exit as opposed to a de jure exit.
A de facto exit means that a “No” vote would increase the likelihood of Greece defaulting on the ECB on July 20th.
Greece would then be cut off from the ECB’s ELA program, default on private creditors, and issue a parallel currency which will circulate alongside the euro.
With an increasing need to print domestic scrip, Greece will have exited the monetary union, at least in de facto terms.
Such a scenario can be reversed, since it is up to the Greek government to set a conversion rate between the euro and the scrip and re-denominate contracts. Consequently, whether Greece will be in or out of the euro will be an open question.
Yet the uncertainty does not end here. Even if a de facto exit occurs, Greece would continue to be legally (de jure) a member of EMU, and may face significant uncertainty over its status.
This is due to the fact that the nation could use treaty provisions to argue that it was illegally forced out of the euro by its peers, while its peers could accuse Greece of violating treaty provisions by issuing a parallel currency.
Consequently, the legal debate will be protracted and its outcome will be highly uncertain, to say the least.
In conclusion, if there is one concept that sums up the road ahead for Greece and Europe it is that of uncertainty. The latter is even more true due to the current polarized nature of Greek politics.
Such polarization will embolden the radical voices within Syriza to harden their stance towards Tsipras, and by consequence his stance towards the creditors.
A bailout deal between Greece and its creditors is almost finalized, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said Friday, hinting that the two sides have been holding private discussions this week.
No matter what the result of Sunday’s referendum, an agreement is “in the offing”, Varoufakis said, speaking on RTE’s “Morning Ireland” radio show on Friday. If Greeks vote “yes”, the government will accept the proposal put forward by its lenders last week, he said, RTE News reported.
“If it is a ‘no’, I can assure you that on this week of impasse, we’ve had some very interesting proposals coming from official Europe confidentially, and a deal is more or less done,” Varoufakis added, the report said.
Greeks go to the polls Sunday to vote in a referendum on whether to accept reform measures put forward by Greece’s international creditors — the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and other eurozone countries — in a bailout proposal last week.
Officials across Europe have characterized the referendum as a vote on whether Greece should stay with the euro, and a “no” result would present the European Union with the biggest challenge in its history. Read: Know this about Sunday’s Greek referendum
Negotiations over Greece’s debt broke down last weekend after the country’s prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, announced the ballot. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other eurozone leaders have said talks would not resume until after the vote was held.
But in the RTE interview, Varoufakis indicated private discussions had been going on this week.
Varoufakis’s comments contrast with earlier statements from European creditors, who have warned that a “no” outcome would all but scupper a new deal for Greece and would step up the chances of the country leaving the eurozone.
Both sides are waging a war of words to sway Greek voters with less than 48 hours to go until polls open, at 7 a.m. local time, or 12 a.m. Eastern Time.
In an interview late Thursday, Tsipras stepped up his push for a “no” vote, saying that would result in a new bailout agreement within 48 hours.
The tally in the referendum is expected to come in at around 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. local time, or 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is reconsidering the last-ditch offer made by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, sources have told Kathimerini.
Kathimerini understands that the pressure caused by the closure of banks as well as the expiration of the Greek bailout program on Tuesday has caused some members of the government to urge Tsipras to accept Juncker’s offer.
Sources said the prime minister’s office has already informed the Commission that it is examining the proposal.
According to what is known of the proposal Tsipras would have to send a written acceptance of the version of proposals from the lenders published on Sunday, with a pledge to campaign for them to be accepted in the planned July 5 referendum.
The offer published on Sunday incorporated a proposal from Greece that would set value-added tax rates on hotels at 13 percent, rather than at 23 percent as originally planned in the lenders’ proposals. It was not immediately clear whether there would be any additional changes.
If the offer were accepted, the euro zone finance ministers could adopt a statement saying that a 2012 pledge to consider stretching out loan maturities, lowering interest rates and extending an interest payment moratorium on euro zone loans to Greece would be implemented in October.
The offer would be conditional on a letter to Juncker, Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande arriving in time to arrange an emergency meeting of the Eurogroup on Tuesday.
Greeks woke up to shuttered banks, closed cash machines and a climate of rumors and conspiracy theories on Monday as a breakdown in talks between Athens and its creditors plunged the country deep into crisis.
After receiving no extra emergency funding for Greek lenders from the European Central Bank, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras somberly announced capital controls in a televised address on Sunday night to prevent banks from collapsing under the weight of mass withdrawals.
Greece has less than 48 hours to pay back 1.6 billion euros ($1.77 billion) of International Monetary Fund loans, and a default would set in train events that could lead to the country’s exit from the euro currency bloc.
But after Tsipras angered Greece’s international lenders by announcing a snap referendum next Sunday on the terms of a cash-for-reforms deal, hopes of a last-minute breakthrough are fading fast. Greeks reacted with a mixture of disbelief and fear.
“I can’t believe it,” said Athens resident Evgenia Gekou, 50, on her way to work. “I keep thinking we will wake up tomorrow and everything will be OK. I’m trying hard not to worry.”
European officials sent confusing signals about their next move. A spokesman for the European Commission told French radio that Brussels would not make any new proposals on Monday, appearing to contradict comments by EU Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici. He said a new offer was forthcoming and that the two sides were “only a few centimeters” away from a deal.
European bank shares fell sharply on Monday. Top banks in Spain, France and Germany were down more than 6 percent as the risk of a spillover to banks in other peripheral euro zone countries spooked investors.
The Greek government will keep banks shut at least until after July 5, the date of the referendum, and withdrawals from automated teller machines — which are shut on Monday — will be limited to 60 euros a day when they reopen on Tuesday. The stock exchange will also stay shut.
After months of wrangling, Greece’s exasperated European partners have put the blame for the crisis squarely on Tsipras’s shoulders.
The creditors wanted Greece to cut pensions and raise taxes in ways that Tsipras has long argued would deepen one of the worst economic crises of modern times in a country where a quarter of the workforce is already unemployed.
As Tsipras announced the emergency measures late on Sunday, there were long queues outside ATMs and petrol stations as people raced to take out cash before it was too late.
“I’ve got five euros in my pocket, I thought I would try my luck here for some money. The queues in my neighborhood were too long yesterday,” said plumber Yannis Kalaizakis, 58, outside an empty cash machine in central Athens on Monday.
“I don’t know what else to say. It’s a mess.”
Newspapers splashed pictures of long lines outside cash machines on their front page. The Nafetemporiki daily headlined Monday’s edition “Dramatic hours” while the Ta Nea daily simply said: “When will the banks open”.
The conservative-leaning Eleftheros Typos newspaper accused Tsipras of announcing the referendum as a ruse to tip the country into early elections in the hopes of winning them.
“Mr Tsipras’s decision to call a referendum and a possible euro exit constitutes a premeditated crime,” it said in an editorial. “It is clear that Mr Tsipras has lost the trust of citizens. That’s obvious from the queues at ATMs and petrol stations, and it will become obvious at next Sunday’s ballot.”
As rumors flew about, dozens of pensioners queued outside at least two offices of the National Bank of Greece on Monday after hearing they could withdraw pensions from some branches. They were turned away, Reuters photographers said.
“I’ve worked all my life, only to wake up one morning to a disaster like this,” said one shop owner, who was there to collect his wife’s pension.
Despite the financial shock, parts of daily life went on as normal, with shops, pharmacies and supermarkets in the city opening and Greeks meeting to discuss their country’s fate at cafes and restaurants. Tourists gathered as usual to watch the changing of the presidential guard outside parliament.
A rally to protest against austerity measures and urge voters to say “No” in the referendum on bailout terms is expected later on Monday.
Despite the hardening of positions, officials around Europe and the United States made a frantic round of calls and organized meetings to try to salvage the situation.
U.S. President Barack Obama called German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and senior U.S. officials including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who spoke to Tsipras, urged Europe and the IMF to come up with a plan to hold the single currency together and keep Greece in the euro zone.
The German and French governments announced emergency political meetings.
“While the program is active until Tuesday, they aren’t providing the necessary liquidity for Greek banks just to blackmail and to terrorize us,” Administrative Reforms Minister George Katrougalos told Antenna television.
“If we vote a yes, they will demolish pensions, you will have to pay for medicare in public hospitals. When your kids can’t go to school you will say ‘thanks’ and they will say ‘you asked for it’.
“But if you say no you have the ability to fight for a better future.”