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Hungary joins US in withdrawing from UN global migration agreement

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Hungary’s populist government announced this week that it is withdrawing from a U.N. global compact on migration, describing the agreement as “in conflict with common sense” and national security -- making it the second country after the U.S. to reject the compact, reported Fox News (US).

“The primary issue for us is the security of Hungary and the Hungarian people, and this document is totally at odds with the country’s security interests,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó said in Budapest on Wednesday. “According to the Government’s position, the U.N. Global Compact for Migration is in conflict with common sense and also with the intent to restore European security.”
The agreement, officially called the “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,” was finalized Friday and was an effort to find an agreement that covered migration “in a holistic and comprehensive manner.”

“Migration raises profound issues: around state sovereignty and human rights; around what constitutes voluntary movement; the relationship between development and mobility; and how to support social cohesion.” U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said.

“This compact demonstrates the potential of multilateralism: our ability to come together on issues that demand global collaboration -- however complicated and contentious they may be,” she added. The agreement is expected to be adopted by members states at an intergovernmental migration conference in Morocco in December.

The U.S. pulled out of talks in December, with then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arguing that it could undermine America's right to enforce its immigration laws and secure its borders.
“The United States supports international cooperation on migration issues, but it is the primary responsibility of sovereign states to help ensure that migration is safe, orderly, and legal,” Tillerson said.

Hungary’s decision is unlikely to surprise many observers. As with President Trump, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz Party has made cracking down on mass migration a focus of its agenda, and comfortably won re-election in the country’s national elections in April campaigning on that very issue.

Trump spoke with Orban by phone last month, congratulating him on the formation of the new government and agreeing “on the need for strong national borders,” according to the White House.

Hungary was on the front lines of the 2015 migration crisis, and angered international groups by building a border fence and deploying troops to the border in the wake of the crisis. Orban’s government has been one of the leaders in a continent-wide populist pushback against what it describes as “open border policies.”

Szijjártó said that the document accepted as a fundamental premise the idea that migration is a good and unavoidable phenomenon.

“The Government regards this premise as unacceptable and regard migration as a bad process that has extremely serious security aspects,” he said. He also said the U.N. document defines migration as a human-rights issue, whereas Hungary regards it as a security issue instead.

Hungary has doubled down on its pushback against mass migration since winning re-election in April. In June, the Hungarian Parliament passed legislation including a measure that makes it illegal for non-government organizations to organize illegal immigration into the country -- from financial support to the distribution of information.
The government has made it clear that the target of such legislation was left-wing Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros. Soros’ Open Society Foundations decried the measures as “unprecedented” and part of a “repressive political and legal environment” in the country.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orban, for defending Israel in international forums and for being a “good friend” to his country, reported Jewish Telegraphic Agency (Israel).

Netanyahu made his remarks before the leaders met Thursday in Jerusalem on the second day of Orban’s two-day visit. Netanyahu went to Hungary a year ago.

Meanwhile, later in the day, dozens of protesters prevented Orban’s car from moving for several minutes following a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum. The protesters held signs reading “Never again” in Hungarian and Hebrew and shouted “Shame on you,” The Times of Israel reported.

Netanyahu has been criticized for hosting Orban, an authoritarian who heads the far-right Fidesz party, with some citing his campaign against the Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros that many consider obliquely anti-Semitic.

Orban also angered Jews both in and out of Hungary when he praised Miklos Horthy, who led the country following the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I. Horthy was a Hitler ally who oversaw the murder of more than 500,000 Holocaust victims together with Nazi Germany.

Netanyahu noted that Hungary sponsored a statement in the United Nations Human Rights Council condemning anti-Semitism and inaugurated the renovated synagogue in Subotica after allocating millions of dollars to renovate Jewish houses of worship.

“In Hungary there is no tolerance for anti-Semitism, and all of the Jewish citizens in Hungary are under the protection of the government,” Orban told reporters before the start of the meeting. “We are proud that in Hungary, self-identifying Jews who celebrate and preserve Jewish tradition can feel safe.”

After meeting with Netanyahu, Orban met with President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem.

“I know what you are doing against anti-Semitism. I know the efforts,” Rivlin told Orban during the meeting. “But we have to remember, when we say ‘Never again’ — neo-fascism and neo-fascist groups are a real danger to the very existence of the free world.”

Orban is not scheduled to meet with any Palestinian leaders during his visit.

At Yad Vashem, Orban laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance. Later, police removed the protesters who had detained the Hungarian leader. The protesters had also chided Yad Vashem for hosting Orban.

Orban was scheduled to have dinner with the Netanyahus at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. On Friday he is scheduled to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem before returning to Hungary.

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