The relocation projective agency vs. the projective agency aimed at the relocation plan - the refugee crisis in Poland, Hungary, and Romania

As in the case of the refugee projective agency, or the projective agency aimed at the refugees, the media coverage in the three countries allows one to see the relocation scheme more generally, at the European level, but also in Poland, Hungary, and Romania in particular. In what follows, we will go deeper into the national logic of each country. In the story of the refugee crisis in Europe, the projective agency of the three countries stands out because of the various sequences of opposition to the relocation system that they put forward - see Table 6.9.

The relocation agency aimed at Poland, Hungary, and Romania is presented in the national media as inducing a sense of dutifulness in these three countries, and enforcing if not a pledge for relocation as such, then at least a formal acceptance of the results of the majoritarian vote in the European Commission. As a mechanism of distribution, the relocation integrates the three countries in the scheme of responsibility-sharing. Even if it mainly does so formally, that is, at the level of the projected future, the mechanism of relocation enforces the participation of the three countries in the scheme. In this sense, the relocation enforces a binding future onto the three countries, and it does so by ignoring the position the three countries take in this matter.

The relocation plan also results in the prospect of materialization of the refugee projective agency on the territory of Poland and Romania, and of refugees’ renewed contact with Hungary. This is why some actions taken by these countries consist of accepting or rejecting this binding, yet unfulfilled, future, of attempting to implement or sabotage it. The presence of the refugees in these countries is a binding future, yet it is also a future that is uncertain, delayed, or simply not yet happening. Neither Poland nor

Table 6.9 The relocation projective agency aimed at Poland. Hungary, and Romania

Projective agency

Phrasing in the media




Institutionalization and algorithmization of a new system of action

Poland will have to implement a relocation plan, will have to accept some 6,200 refugees

The limit which is negotiated for the current situation will not be binding for the future waves of migration

Will be stretched over two years, will be financed from EU funds

The EU prepared a draft of a voluntary allocation [system], in which Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia would have to take approx. 80 Syrians from Turkey per month, in total

Approve a plan to distribute 120,000 refugees while the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia voted against it

Whether they will really keep the door open to the 6,162 asylum seekers assigned to them against their will

May claim that so far almost nothing has happened to make the majority decision a reality

Was assigned X refugees

Would receive

X numbers might arrive, arrived

Enforcing a binding future

The threat of cutting structural funds if Poland does not agree on relocation

Warsaw will be under pressure, Poland will have to obey EU regulations

The quotas set now by the scheme will bind Poland to take in significant numbers of refugees in the future

Have to accept a few thousand, despite not voting for the “quota” legislation

Took note of the majority decision without any hysteria, nothing they can do about EU law, EU law implementation is mandatory, another question is whether they would really open their door

Defeated by the vote Forced to participate Will be forced to participate (should the scheme extend into the future)

Vote against the decision, although he knew he would not be able to block this decision

Projecting the European refugee crisis 175

Hungary engage in the scheme. In fact, the two countries seriously plan actions aimed against it. Romania, on the other hand, has no certainty about the arrival of the refugees despite the country’s engagement in the scheme - see Table 6.10.

In the case of Poland, relocation as an object of action is projected initially as something that needs to be rejected or refused. Once the plan for relocation comes into force, the projections move to the need for rejecting it, complaining about it or taking legal action against it (especially in 2016). The projected actions towards relocation are more in the genre of postponing or negotiating than direct rejection or questioning on legal grounds. The projective agency of Poland is made conditional on the actions and preparations of other Member States. Subsequent to the first pledge, for instance, Poland is portrayed as encountering obstacles in carrying out the procedures foreseen by the relocation scheme while getting ready for cooperation at the hotspots.

There is a threat that there will be people having links with terrorism among the refugees accepted by the EU countries, explains [Ministry of National Security], [...] Greece and Italy have problems with verifying the identity of people who are to come to our country.


Sometimes, the projection of action is counterfactual: “decision about relocation may have been delayed”; or it is conditional, in the form of an if-then statement about what is going to happen. After the Polish government declared its intention of formal withdrawal from the relocation plan using the terrorist attack in Brussels in March 2016 as a justification, the newspapers often drew the projection that high fines are to be expected, should Poland actually withdraw: “If we do not fulfill the relocation obligations, we will have to pay 7 billion zloty” [P_02.05.2016_F].

What stands out in the case of Poland, in the projections which focus on the course of the implementation in particular, is that the agency is to a great extent about ensuring control over the unfolding of relocation (Poland will manage relocation, will be able to control the process of acceptance, will be able to ensure that procedures are fulfilled, should take a hard stance on controlling the fulfilment). The projective agency of Poland is to a great extent a power game - initially, at the level of internal party politics, and subsequently at the level of international relations (or relations between Poland and the EU, specifically).

Hungary, on the other hand, is presented as acting differently towards relocation. Although the country makes all efforts to block the relocation programme, it also applies more long-term strategic thinking to the whole situation. As far as the acceptance of refugees is concerned, the agency of Hungary is highly conditional. Initially, it premises the enrolment in the

Table 6.10 The projective agency of Poland, Hungary, and Romania aimed at the relocation plan

Projective agency

Phrasing in the media




Taking of actions to implement/ resist/sabotage a new system of action

The Polish government will not take in any refugees [after terrorist attacks in Brussels], wants to block the obligatory character of taking the refugees in Postulates there should be no automatism in accepting refugees, does not agree on automatism Will consider the possibility of postponing the implementation, will try to “buy itself out” of the scheme

Recommendation of global quotas Parliament would decide whether to accommodate the nearly 1,300 asylum seekers Accession to the quota system dependent on adequate protection of Hungary’s southern borders

First cohort of refugees

Strategic exercises

Plans of building camps and centres

Acceptance/ rejection of the binding future

Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz has made a binding promise to take in 7,000 refugees

The proposition about quotas is an April Fool’s Day joke, it is unacceptable to offer money for people’s lives

Opposition towards, rejection, critical stance, challenging, contestation Voted against The Parliament will decide

Purpose of the referendum -whether or not to admit migrants should be decided within national boundaries

The quota has no ceiling You have to defend yourself Acceptance of the cohorts of refugees, voted against but will implement it

Begins the mobilization, getting ready from a logistic point of view, getting prepared for the arrival of refugees Does not agree with the mathematical division of the mandatory quotas by vote

It will not take part, takes part

Romania must be a European country

Romania made a mistake when it voted against the scheme It has only 1,500 accommodation places, has 6 centres and organized 2 campsrelocation plan on the security of its borders. It also points to the need for the relocation plan to be legitimized by the Hungarian Parliament, and ultimately by the popular vote - the quota referendum it organized on the issue. The agency of Hungary towards relocation is to negotiate its conditions, to delegitimize, downplay, delay as well as to manipulate its terms, as the example of the idea of the global refugee quotas illustrates.

If the projective agency of Poland comes across as power-oriented, with strongly emotional overtones, the projective agency of Hungary comes across as future-centred, strategy-oriented and imperative. It involves counterfactual thinking and animates debates about the hotspots, that the country has a direct interest in, although it refuses to have them on its territory. After the decision of the European Council from 22 September 2015, Hungary became a voice advocating the protection of the external borders of Schengen, and this projective agency, we learn, resonates with the considerations made by other important politicians, such as Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council. Hungary drew attention to the protection of the Greek border, claiming that Greece did not have the needed capacity. So, Hungary urged European countries to step in, or in the case there is no support for such an endeavour, to build a corridor to Germany directly.

This agency of Hungary, we see, goes beyond the issue of relocation. It is not easy to tell, however, what the relation is between its agency aimed at relocation and that aimed at European asylum policy issues, more broadly. It is not clear whether the issue of relocation is only an element of a larger task of planning the defence of the European borders by Hungary, or the broader issues of asylum and security in Europe are used tactically in order to advance the projective agency of Hungary aimed at the particular issue of relocation. Hungary both undermines the relocation scheme by questioning the notion that other countries will participate in it and launches an imperative rhetoric campaign regarding the urgent need to speed up the securitization of the Greek border. Hungary also pushes the finalization of the Turkey-EU deal, thereby aiming to undermine the very premise on which the relocation policy is based, that is, the statement about the movement of refugees towards Europe. Hungary speculates what other countries will do and closely observes the game of the four countries who voted against relocation. Hungary is thus incorporated in the bigger picture but is also set aside.

With the exception of the Fico government - which immediately threatened to take the case to the European Court of Justice -, the leaders of the reluctant Member States took note of the majority decision without any hysteria. They could have hardly done anything else given that the EU law is at stake and its implementation is mandatory. Another question is whether they will indeed keep the door open to the 6,162 asylum seekers assigned to them against their will, or they trust that this whole thing will come to nothing.


The emotions accompanying Hungary’s actions towards relocation are also quite specific. The country seems to possess a sense of mission towards both Europe and its own people. Its self-righteousness rests not only on the feeling of duty to protect the external EU borders but also on the need to secure approval for its actions from the Parliament and from the population. Hungary is also depicted as acting strategically and as forward-looking with respect to other countries’ positions and moves. Thus, its standpoint on the issue of refugee movement is contextualized and legitimized. In the debate about the quota referendum, the criticism by the European Commission concerning the validity of the voting is pre-empted, and attention is redirected towards the inculcation of the official position, which victoriously proclaimed that 98% voted against the compulsory relocation quota. The position against the relocation quota bears features of a heroic, visionary, and strategic stance.

The projective agency of Romania aimed at relocation largely replicates its actions towards refugees. It mostly takes the form of preparation. Interestingly, although Romania voted against the relocation plan, once the European Council vote was taken, the country moved towards full submission and acceptance of the conditions imposed by the EU. This fact is explained in the media by the legal authority of the Council and the general principle of respecting EU decisions. Yet Romania also struggles to make sense of this shift. Its agency in this respect is thus counterfactual, as is that of Hungary, but unlike in Hungary it is rather retrospective and not projective.

The projectivity of Romania’s agency manifests itself on a different plane: the country expects the refugees to come and it prepares for their arrival. If Hungary’s projective agency is counterfactual and strategic, the projective agency of Romania is more about planning and coordinating the relocation scheme locally. Romania also appeared to be mired in these preparations. Its agency is projective, yet different from that of Hungary or Poland. This is vested in the sense of carrying out a pre-established future that the country had been assigned by the EU.

Similar to Hungary, Romania also has a sense of mission, but its significance is linked with a proper execution of the preparations and proving to be a good EU Member State, not with challenging EU decisions.

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