Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has called for Hungary to be suspended or even expelled from the European Union because of its “massive violation” of EU fundamental values.
He cited the Budapest government’s treatment of refugees, independence of the judiciary and freedom of the press.
“Hungary is not far away from issuing orders to open fire on refugees,” he suggested.
Hungary said Mr Asselborn “could not be taken seriously”.
EU leaders meet in Slovakia on Friday to discuss the union’s future.
Mr Asselborn’s interview with German daily Die Welt is likely to inflame passions ahead of the summit.
The EU could not tolerate “such inappropriate behaviour”, he said, and any state that violated such basic values “should be excluded temporarily, or if necessary for ever, from the EU”. It was “the only possibility to protect the cohesion and values of the European Union,” he said.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto hit back, saying that his Luxembourg counterpart had “long left the ranks of politicians who could be taken seriously”. Mr Asselborn was a “frivolous character”, he said, adding that he was “patronising, arrogant and frustrated”.
Mr Asselborn’s remarks also drew condemnation from Latvia’s foreign minister, who spoke of “megaphone diplomacy”.
And German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a personal friend of the Luxembourg minister, said while he could understand some in Europe were “becoming impatient, it is not my personal approach to show a member state the door”.