Hungary's Viktor Orban accuses EU of 'abuse of power'
The Hungarian premier has told EU lawmakers that Brussels' actions against Budapest "violate the EU treaty." Viktor Orban is facing pressure to correct measures that have undermined "fundamental values" of the EU.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Tuesday told the European Parliament that potential disciplinary measures against his country are a "moral decision" that amount to "abuse of power."
Under pressure from the European Commission, Orban is facing a vote that could see Hungary lose its voting rights in the bloc for undercutting democracy and EU core values.
Read more: Could Hungary lose its EU voting rights?
- "I stand here in front of you and I defend my country because, for Hungarians, liberty, democracy, independence and Europe are matters of honor."
- "What you are doing here is a slap in the face of the Union"
- "We have defended Hungary, and we have defended Europe."
- "We have a different picture about the nature of Christianity in Europe and the role of nations and cultures in our country."
'Between nationalism and Europe'
Judith Sargentini, who launched the debate to sanction Hungary under Article 7 of the EU treaty, said Orban has orchestrated the "structural erosion of the rule of law."
Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the EU Commission, said "civil society is the very fabric of democratic society and is threatened by measures taken by the Hungarian government."
Manfred Weber, the German leader of the EU parliament's conservatives who has signaled his intention to head the EU Commission, said Hungary must decide "between nationalism and Europe."
Nigel Farage, the former head of the far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP) who led the "No" campaign for the Brexit vote, defended Orban, saying "at least one EU politician is ready to stand up for his principles." He urged him to "join the Brexit club."
Other EU lawmakers made clear that possible disciplinary actions against Hungary are "not an attack on the people of Hungary."
Losing support: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who has long supported Orban's hard-line stance on refugees, signaled his intention to vote against Hungary. "There are no compromises on the rule of law," Kurz told ORF television. "Fundamental values have to be protected."
Why is the EU putting pressure on Hungary? Under Orban, Hungary has witnessed what critics have called an authoritarian turn. The far-right premier has continuously targeted press freedoms, the judiciary's independence, asylum seekers and non-governmental organizations.
What is Article 7? Article 7 of the EU Treaty allows for the suspension of certain rights of a member state if "there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a member state of the values referred to in Article 2." Those values comprise "human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities."
Upcoming vote: The European Parliament will vote on Wednesday whether to recommend disciplinary measures against Hungary under Article 7.
"We don't see these people as Muslim refugees. We see them as Muslim invaders," Orban said in a recent interview with German daily Bild newspaper. The 54-year-old prime minister of Hungary added: "We believe that a large number of Muslims inevitably leads to parallel societies, because Christian and Muslim society will never unite." Multiculturalism, he said, "is only an illusion."
When asked by Bild whether it was fair for Germany to accept hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants while Hungary accepted none, Orban responded: "The difference is, you wanted the migrants, and we didn't." Migration, he said, threatens the "sovereignty and cultural identity" of Hungary.
It was not the first time the Hungarian leader has framed migration as a problem for his country. In 2016, he said that Hungary "does not need a single migrant for the economy to work, or the population to sustain itself, or for the country to have a future." He added: "for us migration is not a solution but a problem ... not medicine but a poison, we don’t need it and won’t swallow it.”
Orban has repeatedly criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her decision to allow over a million migrants into Germany in the summer of 2015. Orban told Bild in early 2016: "If you take masses of non-registered immigrants from the Middle East into your country, you are importing terrorism, crime, antisemitism, and homophobia."
Orban has also repeatedly criticized the EU for trying to get member states to share refugees based on national quotas. In a 2015 interview with POLITICO, he suggested the bloc's leaders instead focus more on strengthening the EU's external border. In the same interview, he said: "Of course it’s not accepted, but the factual point is that all the terrorists are basically migrants."
Orban has found allies in other right-wing governments in eastern Europe such as Poland that also oppose the EU's refugee policies. In an interview with Spanish TV channel Intereconomia in 2015, Orban raised fears about integrating Muslim migrants in the EU when he said: "What sort of Europe do we want to have? Parallel societies? Muslim communities living together with the Christian community?"
ls/aw (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)
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