Viktor Orban is not abandoning Europe

The news that Hungary and China have signed a security pact, following a visit by to Budapest by Wang Xiaohong, Minister of Public Security, has been a long time in the making. In 2012, two years after beginning his second term as Prime Minister, Viktor Orban formally re-orientated Hungary’s economic and foreign policy under the slogan of the ‘Eastern Opening’. Orban understood the frustration that had returned him to power with a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Two decades of integration with western Europe had made plenty of Hungarians prosperous, but not the majority.  The introduction of the free market in Hungary was accompanied by the mass closure of businesses, and

Viktor Orbán’s Texas rodeo

Say what you want about Viktor Orbán, but he gives a good speech. His address on Thursday in Dallas on the opening day of CPAC, the annual jamboree of the American right wing, was wide-ranging, hard-hitting and quite funny. One of his best jokes – paraphrasing Pope Francis – was ‘that Hungary was the official language of heaven because it takes an eternity to learn’. It also happens to be nonsense. Hungarian is recognised as considerably easier to learn than Arabic or Mandarin, but Orbán doesn’t do nuance. In fact, the entirety of his speech was about drawing an unbridgeable distinction between the ‘Judeao-Christian’ values of himself and his audience on one

Viktor Orbán won’t save conservatism

It’s always the ones you most expect. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, nationalist strongman and post-liberal poster-boy gave a speech over the weekend on the evils of race-mixing. He was speaking on Saturday to attendees at Tusványos summer university in Băile Tușnad, Transylvania, previously an annual forum for Hungarian-Romanian dialogue but now an intellectual pep rally for the ultranationalist Fidesz party. According to the Budapest Times, he told his co-ideologues the West was ‘split in two’ between European nations and those in which Europeans and non-Europeans lived together. He declared: ‘Those countries are no longer nations.’ This is also how the Daily News Hungary and Hungary Today characterised Orbán’s remarks.

Why Hungary’s opposition failed

Viktor Orbán has now spent a total of 16 years as Hungary’s Prime Minister but he has not lost his hunger for power. Energetically campaigning across the country, exploiting every advantage of incumbency, and excoriating the incompetent opposition, on Sunday he notched up his fourth landslide victory in a row. Crucially, he maintains the two-thirds majority in parliament that he has held since 2010, allowing him him to amend the constitution whenever he chooses. Predictably, the opposition challenged the legitimacy of the election process even before the votes had been counted. They note that the lion’s share of the media supports Orbán. But this is an excuse, not an explanation. It was not

Viktor Orbán has played a perfect game with Putin

On 3 April Hungarians will have their ninth set of free parliamentary elections since the collapse of the communist dictatorship in 1989. The winner is likely to be Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz-KDNP coalition, which is leading in five of the six major polls. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will not change that dynamic even though the opposition leader, Péter Márki-Zay has called Orbán a ‘traitor’ for his long-standing friendship with Vladimir Putin. Ever since Viktor Orbán began his second stint as Hungary’s prime minister in 2010, he has repeatedly played the provocateur within the EU, tweaking the eurocrats’ noses with his cultural conservatism and hostility to mass immigration. His alliance

Viktor Orbán or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Putin

Viktor Orbán first came to prominence when in 1989 he declared on live TV that Hungary must put an end to the ‘Russian occupation’. On the first day of February this year, he held his thirteenth meeting with Vladimir Putin. What’s changed? Like much of his generation, Orbán initially believed that the fall of communism would mean a ‘return to Europe’ — with not only western democracy but also a western standard of living. Yet after a brief and unpleasant stint studying in Oxford, the student politician discovered that Britain’s future elites were ignorant and decadent. Orbán eventually concluded that Hungary had to jettison its naïve faith in Western Europe

How to beat Orbán? Copy him

Opposing Viktor Orbán is a formidable task. Support for his coalition hovers at around the 40 per cent mark while the parliamentary system makes it harder for opposition parties to break through. By 2018, all of the opposition parties, most of which are firmly on the left, realised they were individually incapable of breaking through. They began fielding joint candidates and had some early success when Gergely Karácsony won the mayoralty of Budapest. So they agreed late last year to select a common candidate for the prime ministership at next spring’s elections. Last weekend, a political outsider, Péter Márki-Zay, became the candidate. Márki-Zay’s appeal comes from the idea that he

Viktor Orbán goes to war on the European parliament

‘Times have changed, and whereas thirty years ago we believed Europe was our future, today we understand that we are Europe’s future’. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán has never been one to shy away from controversy when it comes to the European Union. But on Hungarian Independence Day on Monday, he went a step further by presenting an alternative vision for the bloc.  Orbán’s plan involves a major restructuring of the European parliament, which he described as a ‘dead-end’ for democracy. He wants to fix the EU’s democratic deficit by building a ‘democracy of democracies based on European nations’.  In practice, this would mean a reformed European parliament consisting of delegates

Is the EU breaching its UK treaty by failing to protect LGBT rights?

Has the EU Commission lost any sense of moral value? This week, Hungary, an EU member state, voted to impose bigoted and oppressive laws on its LGBT citizens. This amounted to a clear breach of many of our domestic laws – and it is a breach of the shared Human Rights laws. Yet the EU’s response has been dismal. Is it time for Britain to show solidarity with LGBT Hungarians – and walk away from its treaty with the EU? The EU Commission said it is aware of what is unfolding in Hungary and that:  ‘When protecting children from harmful content it is important for member states to find the right balance

The Visegrád bloc are threatening to tear apart the EU

The bad boys of Europe are at it again. The EU has been attempting to tie budget funds to members states’ adherence to the rule of law. This has been rejected by Poland and Hungary, leading to the latest in a long line of conflicts between Brussels and the conservative Central European countries. But looking at the issue in a wider regional context, it becomes clear that this is not just another diplomatic spat, but part of a wider trend. The liberalism of the EU is now facing a serious ideological opposition from the entire ‘Visegrád Four’ bloc of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. The latest dispute over