Hungary's Orban Accuses EU as Bloc Said to Ready Refugee Probes

Updated on
  • Orban’s criticim comes as France, Germany seek EU overhaul
  • Hungarian leader has been rebuked for backsliding on democracy

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has battled with the European Union over issues ranging from the sheltering of refugees to the rule of law, accused the bloc of siding with “terrorists.”

on May 8, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.
Viktor Orban.
Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Speaking to lawmakers in Budapest on Monday, Orban rejected what he called efforts to turn the EU into a federation and defended an advertising campaign sponsored by his government that has covered the country of 10 million people with billboards reading “Stop Brussels.” Still, he said he’ll refrain from ending his country’s membership.

Orban’s outburst coincided with a report from Reuters on Monday that the European Commission would launch probes into Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic for failing to house asylum seekers under a mandatory quota system agreed EU states in 2015. That issue is pitting those three countries and Slovakia against EU powerhouses France and Germany. With the commission also clashing with Hungary and Poland over whether they’re upholding the rule of law, the disputes highlight divisions that may grow as Berlin and Paris are expected to seek changes that may split the EU into core and peripheral members.

“Let’s not risk” Hungary’s future “for the sake of some foggy utopia, call it the United States of Europe, open society or whatever else,” said Orban, who’s seeking a third consecutive term in next year’s elections.

EU Censure

Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Baszczak said that EU plans to punish his country, Hungary and the Czech Republic over migrants were “groundless” and the issue should be discussed by the European Council. The three countries will present a joint declaration to EU president Donald Tusk along with Slovakia outlining their position, he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron suggested in April that the EU impose sanctions on Hungary and Poland -- which is under the EU’s first ever probe into alleged rule-of-law violations -- for undermining the bloc’s values. Germany unveiled a proposal last month to tie some EU aid to democratic and human-rights standards in the next common budget starting in 2021, although the plan received a mixed reception among EU leaders.

The threat may have only emboldened Orban, who over the years has thrived on focusing political campaigns on presumed enemies. Since 2010, his targets have included the International Monetary Fund, the EU, banking and energy companies and, most recently, Hungarian-born billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros.

Orban, who has built a fence on the country’s southern border to keep out migrants and refugees, vowed to reject the EU’s refugee quotas. After the European Parliament backed a resolution last month threatening the suspension of Hungary’s voting rights and said that the Hungarian trial of a Syrian national who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a border incident in 2015 had been “unfair,” Orban said the EU had chosen the wrong side.

“Brussels has openly sided with terrorists,” he said.

— With assistance by Marek Strzelecki

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