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EU rebels Hungary and Poland reaffirm anti-immigrant alliance

Hungarian leader Viktor Orban targets George Soros ahead of re-election bid

Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban and Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo in Warsaw, Poland. Photograph: Slawomir Kaminski/Reuters

Hungary and Poland have vowed to stand firm against what they claim is an overbearing European Union, intent on eroding the sovereignty of member states and forcing them to accept quotas of refugees.

Brussels has criticised the countries’ hardline stance on asylum, and other policies that it fears will undermine democracy, but Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and Polish counterpart Beata Szydlo were defiant in Warsaw on Friday.

“We accept the decision of immigrant countries that they want to be immigrant countries,” Mr Orban said of states that accept refugees, who he describes as a threat to Europe’s security, culture and identity.

“We don’t want to be an immigrant country and we have every right not to be.”

Ms Szydlo added: “The path our governments chose on the matter of illegal immigration turned out to be right.”

Infringement proceedings

The EU has launched infringement proceedings against Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic for refusing to accept refugees to ease pressure on Greece and Italy, and another such procedure against Warsaw over part of a legal reform plan that would give Ms Szydlo’s government sweeping power over the judiciary.

“We want to see less of Brussels and stronger nation states,” Mr Orban said, as part of a robust defence of the stances taken by Hungary and Poland, which he called “guardian countries of the initially signed [EU] Treaty”.

“We believe that the foundation of the European Union is the co-operation and mutual respect between the member countries . . . So we are respectful towards everyone, even if it is not reciprocated. I must say that what is going on in the European Union, the attitude towards Poland, is a lack of respect.”

Mr Orban spoke to Hungarian radio on Friday about a new “national consultation” on what he calls the “Soros plan” – a scheme allegedly drawn up by Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros to bring millions of immigrants to Europe, which the Budapest government claims is the basis of EU asylum policy.

Questionnaires

Previous national consultations involved the distribution of questionnaires asking Hungarians if they agreed with the government’s populist policies on immigration and relations with the EU.

Immigration and the alleged influence of Mr Soros – a liberal critic of Mr Orban who finances civil society groups in Hungary and elsewhere – are expected to be key issues in the ruling Fidesz party’s bid for re-election next spring.

“The challenges on migration faced at the moment have nothing to do with George Soros,” said Goran Buldioski, director of the Open Society Initiatives for Europe, a project funded by the billionaire.

“The [Orban] campaign against George Soros and the Open Society Foundations is an attempt to distract from pressing domestic challenges like failed delivery of basic healthcare services, difficulties in education, under-development in rural areas.”