• EU leaders may see refugee proposal at March 17-18 summit
  • Orban has called a referendum to block a refugee quota plan

A meeting of European Union leaders in mid-March may be a watershed moment for the bloc’s efforts to forge a common refugee policy and a “real challenge” for those that oppose the distribution of migrants, Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban said.

“We have nerve-racking weeks ahead,” Orban said on state radio on Friday. At the March 17-18 summit “leaders will be able to read and see in writing for the first time the European policy proposal on the mandatory distribution of several million refugees among countries that include those who oppose it, including Hungary.”

Orban has been the most outspoken opponent of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy amid the biggest influx of refugees into Europe since World War II. Hungary has built a razor-wire fence on its southern border and filed a lawsuit against an EU decision last year on the one-time distribution of refugees by national quotas. Last week, Orban called for a referendum in Hungary to stymie plans for a permanent EU policy based on quotas.

Before the mid-March summit, EU and Turkish leaders will meet in Brussels on March 7. Merkel is counting on an EU agreement with Turkey, which shelters millions of refugees from Syria’s civil war, to stem the flow of migrants. With Greece struggling to defend its border from the influx, other EU states including Austria and eastern European countries are advocating a plan B of sealing off Macedonia’s and Bulgaria’s border with Greece, which Athens has warned may create a humanitarian catastrophe.

Orban said the EU-Turkey summit at best may lead to a “more definitive agreement” with Turkey.

“The real danger isn’t on Monday,” Orban said. “This mid-March summit will be the real challenge for us.”

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