Hungary’s Orban upbraids EU on migration and integration ‘nightmares’

Leader of nationalist Fidesz party wants to make Hungary a top EU nation by 2030

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban (right) during his swearing-in ceremony for a third straight term, on Thursday, at the Parliament in Budapest. Photograph: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has laid out ambitious plans to make his country a leading EU nation by 2030, while urging the bloc to abandon thoughts of deeper integration and focus instead on stopping migration.

Mr Orban comfortably won approval on Thursday for a third consecutive term in office, from a parliament in which his nationalist Fidesz party again holds a two-thirds majority, allowing it to pass laws at will and change the constitution.

Fidesz dominated last month's national election on pledges to maintain tight border controls, resist EU "meddling", and crack down on NGOs that Mr Orban claims are working with liberal philanthropist George Soros to bring huge numbers of mostly Muslim migrants to Hungary and Europe.

"[The EU] must give up the delusional nightmares of a United States of Europe; the EU must return to the grounds of reality. As a first step it must change its thinking about migration," Mr Orban told parliament.

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“We have replaced a shipwrecked liberal democracy with a 21st-century Christian democracy, which guarantees people’s freedom, security...It supports the traditional family model of one man and one woman, keeps anti-Semitism at bay, and gives a chance for growth.”

Proposal on withholding funds

The EU is suing Hungary over laws tightening state control over NGOs and allegedly targeting the Soros-funded Central European University in Budapest, and top Brussels officials recently proposed withholding future funds from member states that undermine democracy and the rule of law – a potential threat to Mr Orban.

“We want a strong EU, we need the EU and the EU needs us, we are ready to take part in the changes that the EU must undergo, but the EU must work as an association of free nations and not a United States of Europe,” he told deputies.

He argued that migration would “lead in the long term to the end of nations... and there will be one large open society and one large European government. I will work against this plan in the name of Hungarian freedom.”

Mr Orban (54) pledged to develop Hungary’s roads network, health service, nuclear and green energy provision, export sector and military, as part of a bid to make it “one of the top five nations in the EU by 2030, where it is best to work and live”.

Alarm critics

He encouraged his new government to “plan not just for the next four years but for 10 years. In fact, we should now think about the next 12 years,” he said, in comments likely to alarm critics at home and abroad.

Thousands of Hungarians protested outside parliament in Budapest when it reconvened on Tuesday, and accused Mr Orban of eroding democracy and relations with the EU while courting Russia and other autocracies.

"They are building a kind of authoritarian government," said one protester, medical student Dominik Sziklai (22).

“We want European integration, democracy, laws...and we need to get rid of everyone in there – including the opposition, which is just playing the government’s game,” he said, gesturing to the grand parliament building beside the Danube.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe