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Luxembourg minister says Hungary should be suspended from EU

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said Tuesday Hungary should be suspended from the European Union for violating democratic core values and treating refugees like “animals”.

“We cannot accept that the fundamental values of the European Union are being massively violated,” Asselborn told Germany’s Die Welt daily.

He issued his scathing comments about the government of populist right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban ahead of an EU summit in the Slovakian capital Bratislava, where leaders from Friday plan to map out the bloc’s post-Brexit future.

Hungary “today would no longer stand a chance of becoming an EU member,” said Asselborn, according to the report.

“Those who, like Hungary, erect fences against war refugees, violate the freedom of the press and the independence of the judiciary should be excluded temporarily, or if necessary forever, from the EU,” he said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier however later dismissed the comments, saying: “This was not a position that was agreed upon by European states.”

“I can understand that with regard to Hungary some in Europe are getting impatient when it comes to the ongoing debates between the European Commission and the Hungarian government,” he told reporters in the Latvian capital Riga Tuesday after meeting with officials from the three Baltic states.

“But this is not my personal position to throw a European member state out of the door. No, we have to face up to the complicated debates that we have to hold,” he added.

Asselborn was harshly critical of the razor wire-topped fence Hungary erected last year along its southern border to stop a mass influx of migrants travelling to northern Europe along the so-called Balkans route.

“People who are fleeing war are almost being treated worse than wild animals,” the minister said, adding that “Hungary doesn’t seem far from issuing an order to shoot refugees”.

He added that leaders like Orban were damaging the EU’s reputation by giving the impression that the bloc could no longer live by the values it propagates on the international stage.

Asselborn called for changes to EU treaties that would make it easier to suspend members, a move he said should no longer require a unanimous vote of all member states.