Strasbourg (France) (AFP) - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban angered EU lawmakers and officials Tuesday by insisting that Budapest had the right to debate closing the door to migrants and reintroducing the death penalty.
"Hungarians talk straight about tough things. We don't like to beat about the bush. We are a frank people," Orban said on a visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
He told hundreds of lawmakers and members of the European Commission, the executive of the 28-nation EU, that its new migration plan -- proposing binding quotas on member states to admit refugees -- was "absurd, bordering on insanity".
Orban said a "distinction" should be made between movement of labour within EU borders and the entry of people from outside the bloc.
"There are economic immigrants who are just in search of a better life... Unfortunately in Hungary we can't give jobs to all of these immigrants," he said.
"Member states have to protect their own borders. I think it's insane to propose letting in all immigrants to Europe," he said, explaining this was why they were having a public consultation in Hungary on the issue.
He said the treaty under which Hungary became a member of the European Union does not specify which issues Budapest can or cannot debate.
"As far as capital punishment is concerned, I don't want to put my head in the sand," he said.
"This is not about the death penalty... This is about freedom of expression and freedom of thought," the premier said.
Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Liberal Democrat alliance in Europe, angrily scolded Orban for his stand on capital punishment.
"It is a European issue. It's not an issue of member states, it's an issue of the whole European Union," Verhofstadt said.
Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans also berated Orban for muddying the debate over plans for EU quotas for asylum seekers, adding that the EU was not pushing an "open-door" policy for immigrants.
"Don't make a caricature of the plans of the commission, because we're on the same page," Timmermans said.
In an earlier statement to the parliament, Timmermans warned the Hungarian leadership of the risk of sanctions if it pushed to reintroduce the death penalty.
Orban has faced a series of spats with Brussels over his hardline stance on human rights and civil society norms -- key values for the European Union.