A young migrant boy stands in front of the Hungarian border fence at Tompa. Hungary has demanded Brussels refund half the 800 million euros ($950 million) it says it spent defending its southern borders against illegal immigration
BRUSSELS - 1 September 2017: The EU said Friday it was ready to study Hungary's request to be reimbursed for defending Europe's external borders against illegal immigration but urged Budapest again to admit asylum seekers.
President Viktor Orban has demanded that Brussels refund half the 800 million euros ($950 million) Hungary says it has spent defending its southern borders with non-EU Serbia against illegal immigration.
The European Commission, the executive of the 28-nation European Union, said Hungary has already received EU financial and practical support to protect the bloc's external borders.
"If Hungary is now requesting additional support, the Commission is ready quickly to examine such a request and provide the appropriate assistance, if the situation so requires," a Commission spokeswoman told AFP.
EU sources recalled that the Commission does not fund border fences but can help with surveillance costs and equipment to manage external borders.
While Orban said his country expected Brussels to reciprocate for Budapest's solidarity, the Commission criticised Hungary for refusing to admit asylum seekers under a European solidarity plan.
"We should not forget that solidarity is a two-way street. All member states should stand ready to contribute," the Commission spokeswoman said.
"And it is not an a la carte dish; one that can be chosen for border management, and rejected when it comes to complying with relocation decisions that have been jointly agreed," the spokeswoman added.
Hungary has refused to admit its share of asylum seekers under a plan Brussels launched two years ago to distribute 160,000 Syrians, Iraqis and Eritreans who arrived in frontline Italy and Greece.
Orban has called immigration "the Trojan Horse of terrorism."
In response to a wave of refugees and migrants crossing its border with Serbia in 2015, Budapest erected a razor-wire fence patrolled by soldiers and dogs.
It then reinforced that barrier with a second fence line, recruited some 3,000 special police and built another fence on its other southern border with Croatia.
Over 400,000 people crossed through Hungary in 2015 but the numbers fell to a trickle after the fences were built. Subsequently the "Balkan Route" northwards from Greece was also closed.
The construction drew fierce criticism from Brussels, though other EU member states later built their own versions.