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Friday, December 8, 2023

Mariann Őry: Orban’s vision, the old-new Europe

People have been slowly but steadily losing interest in the European elections in the recent decades, with only 42 percent of the voters showing up at the polling stations in 2014. How much things have changed! The rise of eurosceptic parties show that our EU membership is far from being an irrelevant topic, the relationship between the nation states and the alliance can be a central issue which can drive people to make decisions with the gravity of Brexit.

According to the politicians of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, migration is the central topic of the campaign before the European elections in 2019. Migration is a topic which determines Europe’s future for generations, and proved to be an issue which has triggered deep divisions among European politicians. According to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, even his own party family, the European People’s Party is divided on migration and it’s trying to please the social democrats and the liberals on this issue, in order to form a coalition after the European elections.

In a radio interview on September 28, Orban said  that the battle between pro-immigration and anti-immigration members of the European Parliament has not yet been decided, the battle must be fought, and European politics must be changed in the European elections. The prime minister pointed our on numerous occasions that both the European Parliament and the Commission was formed in 2014, before the migration crisis, and their views no longer represent that of the European people.

Taking into consideration that the sense of democracy deficit and creeping centralisation is one of the main reasons of Brexit, this is a rather serious conclusion. The Article 7.1 procedure against Hungary, and the Article 7.2 procedure against Poland are seen by many as the last-ditch efforts of the European liberal elites before they ultimately lose influence next May. According to Orban, the current EU institutions no longer have the legitimacy to decide about Europe’s future when it comes to migration or even the already mentioned procedures. Many see the vote on the Sargentini report a symbolic decision, which was not really about the actual content of the document, but about Hungary’s migration policy and whether it’s legitimate to punish a country in this way. The members of the European Parliament were forced to make a decision, and it allowed Hungary’s government to finally see who are its enemies and who are its friends. As for Slovenian parties, SDS was among those who stood by the Hungarian government.

Most analyses published this year suggest that the composition of the next European Parliament will indeed be different. The two main groups, the European People’s Party and the Socialists & Democrats are expected to lose mandates, while eurosceptic parties will gain more support. Parties to the right of the EPP are expected to regroup, as their alliances will unavoidably change with Brexit. Speculations have been all over the press about a possible alliance of Viktor Orban’s Fidesz and Lega, the anti-immigration party led by Italy’s minister of interior, Matteo Salvini, but the Hungarian prime minister has been indicating that their cooperation is based on the fight against illegal migration, it’s not based on party politics.

The European election is not only about migration, but about fundamentally different visions about Europe’s future. According to Viktor Orban, Emmanuel Macron is leading the EU’s pro-immigration forces, who want less national sovereignty and more centralisation. The two visions are the United States of Europe and the Europe of Nations. It’s not only Orban who portrays the election as a civilisational choice, but also Macron and liberal politicians like Guy Verhofstadt. In their narrative, Orban is leading the dark side, the populists…not to mention even worse labels.

To show what is at stake, let’s finish with a recent quote by Viktor Orban: “Ever fewer Europeans are being born, and ever more outsiders are being brought here. This will change our culture, and within a year or two we will not recognise our own village, our own town, our own country or our own continent”.

Mariann Őry, head of the foreign desk at Hungarian conservative daily newspaper Magyar Hirlap


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