Hungarian PM lashes out at liberal elite in keynote speech at summer university

Hungarian PM lashes out at liberal elite in keynote speech at summer university
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's speech closed the 29th summer university at Baile Tusnad, in central Romania.
By bne IntelliNews July 30, 2018

Every European country has the right to protect its Christian culture and the traditional family model, as well as the right to reject immigration, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a keynote speech at the Baile Tusnad Summer University on July 28. In his words, western liberal democracies have turned non-democratic.

Orban's speech closed the 29th summer university at Baile Tusnad, in central Romania. The annual political and cultural get-together in the heart of Sekerland, with a majority ethnic Hungarian population, offers a great chance for Orban to lay out a broad picture of domestic and external affairs to his audience in a casual way, which characterises the whole event.

Baile Tusnad and other Hungarian towns across the border are home turf for Orban as his ruling Fidesz party gained a whopping 96% of the votes from ethnic Hungarians living outside of Hungary in the April election. 

Extending citizenship to Hungarians living abroad was a strategic plan devised by Orban long before his party went on to win its first supermajority election victory in 2010. In the 2014 and 2018 election, Fidesz booked the votes of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Hungarians.

In his keynote speeches at Baile Tusnad, Orban crafts his words carefully; he makes sure to make headlines that will dominate public discourse for a long time, as when he delivered his controversial speech in 2014 about the illiberal state. 

Four years later, Orban is stronger than before, as media freedom has narrowed further. His party's appointees are sitting at universities, hospitals and what should be independent authorities, from the media supervisory authority to the State Audit Office. Pressure is mounting on the judiciary, which has yet to succumb to Orban's concepts.

On Saturday, Orban extended his illiberal state concept to bashing liberal democracies in the EU, which in his words have turned non-democratic. A sign of this lack of democracy is that in Western Europe censorship and restrictions on freedom of speech have become general phenomena, he said. 

Hungary's strongman insisted that Europe's current leaders are inadequate and incapable of protecting the continent from migration. The exclusively liberal European elite denies its roots and is building an open society instead of a Europe based on Christianity, he added.

Orban said the European elite had become bankrupt, and the symbol of this bankruptcy was the European Commission, whose days, he insisted, were numbered, referring to the upcoming European parliament elections next year.

The result of the elections would result in waving goodbye to liberal democracy and to "the elite of the 1968". Instead of the 1968 generation, the time has come for the anti-communist, Christian, nationally committed generation of 1990, he proclaimed.

"Orban is now posing as the defender of his version of a Christian Europe that is challenging the values on which the European Union was founded. He is trying to take over the leadership of the Christian Democratic parties,” the Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros said of the Hungarian prime minister, who enjoyed a scholarship from his organisation back in 1988. 

Orban has vilified the philanthropist and based his reelection campaign on accusing him of flooding Europe, Hungary included, with Muslim refugees. Analysts expect the same rhetoric to rule in the European parliament election campaign.

The prime minister said there was an alternative to liberal democracy and he dismissed the idea that Christian Democracy could also be liberal, saying that Christian democracy was "illiberal".  Liberal democracy stands for multiculturalism and it undertakes the model of immigration and a flexible definition of the family, according to Orban. 

Orban aspires for regional dominance

Orban talked a great deal about rebuilding the Carpathian Basin. He sees Hungary as the main force to integrate the region's countries in one block economically and politically, which could become the driver of growth for the EU. 

Hungary has been the main proponent of closer political and economic ties in Central Europe, one area of which is strengthening the V4 alliance.

“We Central Europeans assert that there is life beyond globalism, that it is not the only path, and that the path of Central Europe is that of an alliance of free nations,” the prime minister stated. 

Orban said that Hungary invites its neighbours to create high-speed rail and road links connecting their countries, to link their energy networks, and to coordinate their defence policies and military developments. 

He went on to say that at present the EU is pursuing a crude policy on Russia, which should be replaced with “an articulate Russia policy”. Orban added that the security of Hungary, of the whole of the Carpathian Basin and of Europe depends on whether Turkey, Israel, and Egypt are stable enough to halt the Muslim influx. 

Opposition blasts Orban's speech 

Conservative Jobbik said that Orban's speech showed that he prioritised his own European political ambitions over Hungary's fortunes. He "has indicated more than once" that he sees himself as a potential leader of Europe. The parliament's largest opposition party said it was cynical of the prime minister’s declaration that Western countries are undemocratic. It is Orban who has dismantled freedom of speech and the press, as well as abolishing public institutions which are the bedrock of democracy, he claimed.

The Socialists said the Fidesz chairman is far removed from Hungarian reality. The party's spokesperson said that tens of thousands of families faced eviction, health care was in a state of "devastation" and the situation of FX loan-holders was still unresolved.