Viktor Orban blasts EU sanctions in keynote speech marred by racist remarks

Viktor Orban blasts EU sanctions in keynote speech marred by racist remarks
Viktor Orban (c) holds keynote speech at the 31st summer university in central Romania, surrounded by Fidesz MP Zsolt Nemeth (l) and Laszlo Tokes, an ethnic Hungarian MEP from Transylvania.
By bne IntelliNews July 25, 2022

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said EU sanctions against Russia had failed and that the war in Ukraine will only end when peace talks are held between Russia and the United States in his keynote speech at the 31st summer university in Baile Tusnad in central Romania on July 23.

With the main focus of the speech the war in Ukraine, it clearly showed the divisions between Hungary's rightwing president and fellow EU members. Hungary’s nationalist leader also made a couple of controversial statements, saying that Hungarians "don't want to be a mixed race".

The annual political and cultural gathering in the region with a vast Hungarian ethnic population was originally aimed at improving the Romanian-Hungarian dialogue, but since 2010 it has become the meeting point of the political and cultural elite of the ruling Fidesz Party.

Orban generally gives an ideological briefing on external affairs and unveils his latest political philosophy at these events. He delivered his infamous discourse about illiberal democracy eight years ago there.

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic and the government’s fourth consecutive two-thirds victory, his keynote address was preceded by great expectations.

Orban slams "ineffective" sanctions

Orban put the war in Ukraine at the forefront of his speech, blasting the ineffectiveness of the EU’s sanctions, and adding that new strategies are needed to end the war.

The Hungarian prime minister said that the war had broken out because Russia wanted a guarantee of security from the West, which it could not get.

In his opinion, peace can only be brought by Russian-American negotiations, as the EU had its chance to play the role of a mediator in the 2014 Minsk agreement, but Germany and France were unable to implement their role.

The PM said the West's strategy in the conflict had been based on four pillars: that Ukraine can win a war against Russia with Nato weapons, that sanctions would weaken Russia and destabilise its leadership, that sanctions would hurt Russia more than Europe, and that the world would line up in support of Europe.

"But it's the opposite of all this that's happening right now. We're sitting in a car with a puncture in all four tyres," he noted. 

The war will probably last until the end of 2024, because that is when the next presidential elections are held in the US, Orban said, claiming that the current president, Joe Biden, is "not interested" in peace.

He insisted that the war would not have broken out if Donald Trump were the US president and Angela Merkel the German chancellor.

Wooing the US right

Hungary’s illiberal leader has been busy working on solidifying ties with US Republicans, as Fidesz’ bid to team up with Eurosceptic and radical rightwing forces in the European Parliament has yet to materialise following the divorce with the European People's Party (EPP) in 2021.

Orban said the Western world's woes were expected to "multiply" by 2030. The US will face an economic crisis, the eurozone will be ailing due to the tension between the southern and northern member states, and the EU will see a reshuffling of power lines as Central Europe countries will become net contributors to the bloc.

He touched on Hungary’s stance in saying it can preserve its economic achievements only if it "stays out of the war, migration, gender madness, the global minimum corporate tax and general European recession."

Hungary could be "a local exception" to a global recession, as it has emerged from the crises in 2010 (when Fidesz achieved its first supermajority) and in 2020 during the pandemic.

He mentioned the government’s utility price scheme, which "had worked well for a decade, but the war and energy prices tipped it over". For the first time, he gave precise figures on the cost of price caps.

Last year energy subsidies reached HUF296bn (€745mn), which rose seven-fold this year to over HUF2 trillion, which forced the government to retreat from one of its key policies.

Orban dusted off his old campaign rhetoric against his bogeyman Hungarian-born billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, saying that it was Soros' "troops" who are forcing illegal immigrants on Hungary.

Then he continued by saying that "claims by the internationalist left" that Europe had always been home to mixed-race people were an illusion and a deliberate conflation of ideas.

"Hungarians don't want to become mixed-race," and future generations must be prepared to thwart the expansion of Islamic civilisation towards Europe not just from the south but from the west as well, Orban said. At the same time, Hungary must be prepared to take in Christians fleeing the West, he added.

Opposition fear "pariah" status for Hungary

Hungarian opposition parties slammed the prime minister, calling his mixed-race remarks a quasi-Nazi-type speech which will further isolate the country in Europe.

"Viktor Orban is Hungary’s tragedy. We will perish and will be a pariah if he stays in power," commented Ferenc Gyurcsany, head of Hungary’s largest opposition party DK.

Hungary’s chief rabbi Robert Frolich reacted in a Facebook post with lines from Hungarian poets, many of Jewish descent, who lost their lives during the Holocaust because of "such conspiracy theories on races". 

Orban also referred to demonstrators who took to the streets in protest against the tax changes to the popular small business tax as drug addicts, and he made a rather distasteful comment on Germany’s efforts to reduce its gas usage.

"The EU wants to make it compulsory to reduce gas consumption by 15%, but I don't see how this will be enforced. Although there is German know-how from the past, I mean," he said.

The Orban government has made Hungary "the second most corrupt country in the European Union", the socialists (MSZP) said, adding that inflation was "brutal" and that the government was to blame for the delay in the payouts of EU funds to Hungary.

Opposition parties also criticised the government for making its announcement about the "dismantling" of utility price caps that will financially cripple many Hungarian households outside Hungary.