European Union bureaucrats are “in alliance” with billionaire financier George Soros in an attempt to flood Europe with refugees and migrants, Hungary’s outspoken prime minister charged at the weekend, saying each E.U. member-state should be empowered to control its own borders.
“We can never be loyal to ideas, people or groups that aim to change European culture,” Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a speech at a cultural festival in Romania.
Hungarian state news agency MTI quoted him as saying the culture of migrants coming into the continent “is in sharp contrast to European culture,” pointing as an example to gender equality norms in Europe compared to Islamic societies in which women have a subordinate role.
Orban said Hungary’s border fences would stymie the campaign by the E.U. “bureaucratic elite” and Soros to expand Muslim migration into Europe.
The E.U., he said, must regain its independence from Soros’ “empire.”
Orban’s government has long been critical of the Hungarian-American chairman of the Open Society Foundations, who last fall called on Europe to take in “several hundred thousand” screened refugees and pledged to invest $500 million in support.
Orban’s new attack on the E.U. institutions comes amid deepening disputes between Brussels and the four eastern European member states known as the Visegrad group – Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – which have refused to cooperate with a E.U. refugee “relocation and resettlement” quota scheme.
Orban said “Brussels bureaucrats” and Soros wanted to weaken the group, which they view as an obstacle to implementing the “Soros plan.”
The four Visegrad countries, once part the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact, are relative newcomers to the E.U., having joined in 2004.
“Here in eastern Europe, 27 years ago we thought that Europe would be our future,” Orban said, referring to the period of the Soviet Union’s disintegration in 1990-1. “Now we think that we are Europe’s future.”
The populist prime minister, who hopes to win a fourth term in elections next April, predicted his campaign would face strong opposition from the E.U. and the Soros “network” include media outlets.
His Socialist rival in that campaign, Laszlo Botka, responded to his speech by saying voters would decide in April between a country that is “lagging behind” or a future “built on equality and justice.” He defined the choice as one between “Orban and Europe.”
The small Liberal Party also criticized Orban, saying in a statement it was the government’s “hatemongering” that posed a danger to the country – not “migrants, George Soros, Brussels, or NGOs [non-governmental organizations].”
Clashes over NGOs, judicial reforms
Last week, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto declared that the E.U.’s executive Commission had launched a “witch hunt” against countries like Hungary and Poland which, he said, speak out on European challenges openly and honestly.
In ongoing disputes, the E.U. is criticizing Hungary for targeting NGOs – many of them Soros-funded – and Poland for pursuing contentious reforms that opponents say undermine the country’s judicial independence.
In Poland, lawmakers on Saturday approved measures that will among other things require all serving judges to retire and be replaced by candidates chosen by the conservative government’s minister of justice.
Warsaw argues the steps, which have sparked large protests, are necessary to make the judiciary more effective; the E.U. Commission says it amounts to an attack on the rule of law.
At a meeting last week E.U. commissioners discussed the matter again, urged Poland to put the proposals on hold – and discussed the option of triggering a never-before-used provision of the Treaty of the European Union that provides for suspension of voting rights for a member-state deemed to have committed a “serious and persistent breach” of fundamental rights.
Implementing Article 7(1) – sometimes called the “nuclear option” – requires a two-thirds majority in the European Parliament.
It also needs the support of four-fifths of the members of the “European Council,” a group comprising the heads of state of the 28 member-states plus the European Council president and European Commission president.
In his weekend speech in Romania, Orban threw his support behind his Polish counterpart, Jarosaw Kaczynski, in the face of what he called the “inquisition” from Brussels, saying Hungary would use “all legal options” to show its solidarity.
The U.S. State Department has also voiced concern about the measures in Poland, weeks after President Trump visited the country.
Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement Friday the reforms appear “to undermine judicial independence and weaken the rule of law.”
“Poland is a close ally of the United States, and a strong and healthy democracy in Poland is vital to relations between our two countries,” she added.