BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday he would hold last-ditch talks at a European Union summit on the migration crisis before making a final decision on whether to close the Hungary-Croatia border.
Hungary has already sealed off its border with Serbia, after a massive wave of people fleeing violence and poverty in the Middle East and Africa has made its way toward Western Europe via the Balkans.
Migrants have in response changed their route to Croatia, which has been moving them on to Hungary, which in turn has been shipping them onward to Austria.
If Hungary decides to stop the flow through its territory altogether, migrants might try to go through Slovenia instead.
According to a broadcast by Hungarian state television, Orban told reporters before entering the EU summit in Brussels that Budapest would prefer the EU to defend its borders in Greece, where hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East have entered the bloc this year.
Failing that, Hungary had in place a border fence along its frontier with Croatia and would make a final decision by Friday morning, Orban said. The border could be closed “within an hour if necessary”.
“We need to grasp the problem at its source, meaning we need to go south and defend the Greek border,” Orban told reporters. “That has yet to be done so I hope today we can agree to seal the Greek border, in which Hungary is willing to be an actor.”
“Of course we can extend the Schengen rules to the Croatian border, as we did with the Serbian border, but that is a second-best solution. The best solution would be for Greece to honor its contractual obligations, and if it cannot, then we should do it for her.”
Orban said he would hold talks with Visegrad Four partners Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, as well as bring up the issue again at a summit of EU leaders on Thursday evening.
”We can say the final word on this tomorrow morning,“ Orban said. ”We are ready, the technical structures needed to defend the border are in place, and our forces are present as well.
“Hungary is fully prepared to enforce Schengen protocols to only allow entry into the country in a controlled and strictly regulated fashion. We can make that happen inside an hour if necessary.”
Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Andrew Roche