Parliamentary group presidents call on Commission and European Council to sanction Hungary

Politics - August 26, 2022

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has once again stirred up the European Union’s governing bodies with his “race-mixing” speech.  The Hungarian Prime Minister did not miss this year’s edition of the summer university organized, after a two-year break due to the coronavirus pandemic, by the leaders of the Hungarian community in Romania in Baile Tusnad and, as he has already accustomed the Romanian and international public opinion, he sent a new message to Europe.

After announcing from the rostrum of the same event in 2014 that he wanted to build an illiberal state based on national foundations, following the model of Russia and China, at the 31st edition of the same event the Hungarian politician spoke about how he would like – or rather how Hungarian society should not be, namely not to mix with other races.

Viktor Orban’s speech made the rounds of the international press and provoked strong reactions from European forums, Romanian politicians and Jewish community leaders, as well as from within his own party, FIDESZ. Hungary is once again in the crosshairs of Brussels, which has resumed talks about sanctioning it, activating Article 7 and “cutting off” European funds.  

“The internationalist left has a trick: they say that mixed-race peoples live in Europe anyway. Which is false because it confuses several things. There is a world in which European peoples mix with peoples from outside Europe. Well, that’s the world of mixed races. And that’s us, where peoples living in Europe mix with each other. That’s why we in the Carpathian Basin, for example, are not mixed races, but a mixture of peoples living in their own European place of origin”, said the Hungarian Prime Minister on 23 July in the Romanian town of Baile Tusnad. 

We agree to mix with each other, but we don’t want to become a mixed race, that’s why we stopped the Turks in Vienna and that’s why the French stopped the Arabs in Poitiers,” Viktor Orban explained.

Beyond these statements, Viktor Orban also touched on the subject of migration in his speech and talked about demography, nationhood and the decline of the West, again sending messages to Brussels.

“The most thorny issue continues to be the demographic problem. There are more deaths than births (…) The second challenge is the migration phenomenon, which has split Europe in two. The migration phenomenon has split Europe in two. Simply put, the West has split, it has split in two. On one side we have countries, nations, where we have Europeans and non-Europeans living together. Those states are no longer nations, there are conglomerates of peoples. We can no longer speak, I say, of the West, we are talking about a post-Western structure and, according to the rules of mathematics, that great demographic change is going to happen. In that part of our continent (…), the percentage of the non-European population will increase by more than 50%. And we have the other part of Europe, the West, Central and Eastern Europe, that is us. I don’t want to create confusion, but I’m saying it in a spiritual sense, the West has moved into our region. Here we have the West, there we have a post-Western structure and there is a battle going on between the two parts of Europe. So we made an offer to the post-Westerners, we said ‘leave us alone and let us decide who we want to be neighbours with and who we want to live with’. The post-westerners refused this offer and said ‘no, we will turn you into what we are or have become’. Now there is less talk about migration, but believe me, nothing has changed. Brussels and the Soros teams simply want to force us to accept migrants,” said Viktor Orban, according to the official translation quoted in the Romanian press.

The reaction of the government in Budapest was, as expected, defensive, with spokesman Zoltan Kovacs claiming that this was “a misinterpretation” by “people who do not clearly understand the difference between the mixture of different ethnic groups of the Judeo-Christian sphere and the mixture of peoples of different civilisations”.

It seems that the Hungarian politician has gone too far this time, at least that is the position expressed by one of his oldest collaborators, social inclusion adviser Zsuzsa Hegedus. She announced her resignation just days after Orban’s speech in Romania, after 20 years of collaboration with the Hungarian politician.

Zsuzsa Hegedus resigned in an open letter, in which she described Orban’s speech in Baile Tusnad as “Nazi”.

 “I am truly sorry that I have to end a relationship because of such a shameful position. A purely racist text that would have pleased even Goebbels. (…) After such a speech, which contradicts all my basic values, I am left with no other option,” said Hegedus, quoted by the Romanian press.

At the same time, the International Auschwitz Committee said it was “appalled” by the Hungarian prime minister’s claims of a “non-mixed Hungarian race” and called on the European Union to “distance itself from such racist insinuations”, according to AFP. 

The speech by the nationalist leader in Budapest, described as “stupid and dangerous”, reminds Holocaust survivors of “the dark times of their own exclusion and persecution”, the organisation’s vice-president Christoph Heubner said, according to Agerpres.  

Hungary’s Jewish community also reacted against Viktor Orban’s speech.

 “There is only one two-legged race on this planet, which works, talks and sometimes thinks: Homo Sapiens Sapiens,” said Hungary’s Chief Rabbi Robert Frolich in a Facebook post Shortly afterwards, Hungary’s Jewish faith community, MAZSIHISZ, issued a statement expressing concern over Orban’s statements. “The terms used totally contradict the practice that represented a unique security even on the European level for the Jewish community.”

The presidents of the parliamentary groups in the European legislature have issued a joint statement a week after the Budapest leader’s controversial speech, criticising his “openly racist statements” and calling on the Commission and the European Council to stop delaying sanctions against Hungary by activating Article 7 of the EU Treaty.

“Racism and discrimination in all its forms must be unequivocally condemned and effectively combated at all levels,” says the statement signed by the leaders of the seven political groups in the European Parliament.

They call on the European Commission and the Council to urgently condemn Orbán’s statements in the strongest possible terms and ask the latter to stop delaying recommendations to Hungary under Article 7 TEU, which allows for the suspension of certain rights of a Member State, including the right to vote in the EU Council.

They call on the Council to put this issue on the agenda of the next meeting and to put an end to the attacks on Article 2 TEU, recalling that Member States have an obligation to act as one.

“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society characterised by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men” – Article 2 TEU.

The statement also calls for Hungary’s problems with respect for the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights to be addressed at EU level and for Hungary’s Recovery and Resilience Plan not to be approved until Budapest meets the criteria for EU funding.

“We also use this opportunity to reiterate that there is no place for racism, discrimination and hate speech in our societies. We call for further action by EU governments and at Union level, including against the normalisation of racism and xenophobia, and stress the need for an accountability and monitoring mechanism to ensure effective implementation of EU anti-racism policies and legislation,” the leaders of the political groups in the EP added,” the statement said.

It should be noted that Viktor Orban’s party, FIDESZ, was excluded from the EPP, the largest political group in the European Parliament, in 2021, having already been suspended indefinitely two years earlier.

The most vehement reaction regarding the Romanian political class came from President Klaus Iohannis, who described the Hungarian prime minister’s statements as unacceptable. And he asked the UDMR, part of the ruling coalition in Bucharest, to come up with clarifications.

“I believe that there is a need for public clarification from the RMDSU, because there were people from the RMDSU. They need to explain whether they agreed with the content of that speech, which they applauded, which would be very serious, or they did not understand the speech and applauded generically. Nobody wants to provoke a government crisis because a senior official made an erroneous speech,” Klaus Iohannis was quoted as saying by the Romanian press.

However, these clarifications have not yet been forthcoming.

The spokesperson of the RMDSU, Csilla Hegedus, told Antena 3 television that the political party will not offer explanations.  

“We do not comment on the statements of President Klaus Iohannis. The words of Hungarian Prime Minister Orban Viktor in Baile Tușnad were taken out of context and it is not the case for us to give explanations,” the UDMR spokeswoman said on Friday.

A different position comes, however, from the president of the NCCD, supported by the RMDSZ, Csaba Asztalos, who wrote on his Facebook account that he would have initiated a self-investigation procedure regarding the statements made by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Baile Tusnad if he had not benefited from jurisdictional immunity, according to international law.

“Personally, if I did not consider that there was jurisdictional immunity, I would initiate a self-investigation procedure in my capacity as a member of the governing college,” Csaba Asztalos wrote on his Facebook account on Saturday.

At the same time, Asztalos told those who asked for his resignation for not acting within his powers that they can make complaints to the institution he heads, as anyone can.

“The fact that I have publicly expressed a legal opinion on the admissibility of a complaint against a foreign head of state who has committed a possible act of discrimination (possible because we have not ruled on the merits), does not mean that those who wish to do so cannot lodge a complaint with the CNCD. On the contrary. If they do, the first analysis will be that of exceptions (jurisdiction, jurisdictional immunity, etc.). So, anyone can file a complaint on the statements of the Hungarian Prime Minister,” Csaba Asztalos wrote.