Hungary delays international cultural conference as Yiannopoulos' presence sparks controversy

Hungary delays international cultural conference as Yiannopoulos' presence sparks controversy
Milo Yiannopoulos has stoked controversy because of his alt-right views and comments on paedophilia.
By bne IntelliNews January 9, 2018

A Visegrad Group conference on the Future of Europe scheduled for January 23-25 in Budapest will be put off until after the Hungarian general election in April after the invitation of British political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos sparked controversy.  

The conference organised by the Hungarian Public Foundation for the Research of Central European History and Society planned panel discussions on issues such as culture wars, clashes of cultures in Europe, migration, resettlement and the future of Europe, artificial intelligence and the role of V4 countries in the European economy. The conference is funded by the Hungarian government and the Visegrad Group, which is currently chaired by Hungary.

The conference “represents an extraordinary opportunity to analyse the full array of political and cultural processes as well as to put our identity-creating cultural values in the limelight which, in addition to contributing to shape the present and the future of Europe, the most exciting and most lively scene of our civilization, also define the elbow room of the countries of Central Europe within and beyond the European Union,” the organisers said at the announcement of the programme in December.    

Among the invited speakers are sociologist Frank Furedi; publisher, publicist and philosopher Gotz Kubitschek; philosopher Pascal Bruckner, author of France and Islam; and Sandor Csanyi, Chairman and CEO of OTP Bank Group. However, it was the invitation of Yiannopoulos, a leading representative of the alt-right movement, that has sparked a controversy and forced the organisers to postpone the event until after the election. Yiannopoulos is a former senior editor at the US alt-right website Breitbart News, who was eventually sacked for his controversial comments on paedophilia.

The opposition Democratic Coalition said the government was promoting the conference as a scholarly and cultural event but the invited speakers were “disgraceful and absolutely unacceptable from the point of view of human rights, the rule of law and the anti-fascist and anti-Nazi traditions of Europe". Yiannopoulos is an “openly, provocatively anti-minority, anti-Semitic representative of the American alt-right toting a Nazi attitude,” MP Agnes Vadai said. 

Fidesz MP’s and conservative intellectuals had cited the importance of freedom of speech and of having a diverse range of lecturers, while opposition parties and left-leaning websites highlighted Yiannopoulos' comments on paedophilia.

"The Future of Europe, as well as the topics on its agenda and the speakers invited, have become part of the partisan political struggles underway in view of the forthcoming parliamentary elections. That makes it impossible for a free debate of differing opinions and outlooks to take place undisturbedly”, said a statement on the event’s website.  The conference will now be held in May.