Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orbán, has set out his vision for Europe – and the European Union – in a speech made yesterday at a commemoration to Helmet Kohl, the German Chancellor who oversaw the reunification of Germany in 1990. In his speech (English text version here), Orbán called for a Europe that holds onto its Christian heritage, a strong external border of the EU, and for nation states to work independently as well as with the EU governing institutions, to ensure Europe continues to prosper.
In the spirit of the context of the event – remembering the German leader who supervised the reunification of Eastern and Western Europe, and the collapse of European Communism – Orbán loosely compared the politicisation of the EU Commission to Moscow during the Cold War, and accused them of using “Salami Tactics” (divide and rule – slicing the opposition thinly, like salami…). He claimed that the European Parliamentary Elections, due to take place March 2019, could be easily won by populist parties similar to that of his own party, Fidesz, but that the European Christian Right must resist that temptation, and stay the course. It is easy to see why: his own party recently won a third term in power, with an increased majority.
The speech and its content is somewhat of an enigma to the British observer: leader of an anti-migrant party, which in turn, leads the government of a country within the EU, and sees absolutely no cause to leave the bloc. In fact, the Visegrád Group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) and, both more recently and pertinently, Austria and Italy, could have taught the UK how to deal with its fear of migration without the need to leave the EU. Indeed, Orbán laments Britain’s departure from the group, and cites the two countries’ shared voting against the election of Jean-Claude Juncker as the President of the European Commission.
“Christianity is the background against which all our thoughts derive meaning. Not every European need believe in the truth of Christian faith; yet anything they say, make or do will derive its meaning from the Christian heritage.”
But Orbán’s speech was not just a railing against the EU, or a critique of its migrant policy. Nor was it a rant about fellow countryman George Soros, of Angela Merkel refugee policy, or the liberals and communists hiding in the back rooms of the EU institutions. No: Orbán’s speech was a Manifesto.
At least, he would have thought so, but in reality, it is an agenda on what will shape the political discourse within Europe over the next two decades. Mentioned in the speech is EU enlargement – particularly of Serbia and the western Balkans. This is sure to set hearts racing, as Kosovo is not recognised by Europe’s current bogeyman, Russia. The former superpower, meanwhile, was not mentioned at all in the speech, despite Hungary’s new populist friends, the government of Austria, promoting improved relations with the Kremlin.
Orbán also reiterates his own country’s use of the EU’s financial “safety net” after the 2008 financial crash – as well as paying it back “to the last cent”, which was a snipe at Greece and the other PIIGS nations (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain).
While this speech is just one of many in the great scheme of happenings within the EU, and the wider debate on migration, it is the clearest on the Visegrád Group’s own views on their role within the bloc, and can be seen as a call to arms directed toward member states to the west, in particular, Italy and Austria, who have recently joined the German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, in an “Axis of the Willing” – aiming to attempt to curb migration from northern Africa and the Middle East.
Closing in from decades to the next two weeks, a jab was made at Merkel’s tug-of-war with the aforementioned Seehofer, with Orbán claiming Fidesz to be “Europe’s CSU”, and a thorn in the side of the current German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In terms of immigration, Orbán promoted Hungary as the defender of Christian Europe by building, manning, and maintaining fences along its border with non-EU nations, claiming that his was not an ideology of anti-free movement within the bloc, but rather from outside, and called on other countries to follow suit and protect both land and sea borders. “Without borders,” he said, “existence is impossible.”
Meanwhile, in Germany, Merkel herself has just secured two weeks to chisel out a solution to both the crisis of migration to the EU, as well as her own tenuous position as an embattled Chancellor of thirteen years. The revocation of the Dublin Regulation (which is the EU’s treaty on refugees, asylum seekers, and their protection) is on the cards to do this however, and it has the potential to severely impact the comfort of those fleeing war-torn countries.
Ironically, – and possibly most importantly for you, Dear Reader – Britain is busy negotiating the terms of its withdrawal from the EU (granted, still internally) in the wake of a referendum that was won through a national debate on migration, and the free movement of people. Now, it seems that one of the very core tenets the EU was founded upon is in danger of being scrapped, rendering the (commonly assumed) rationale for voting to leave, rather moot…to say the least.