Viktor Orban warns at party congress that EU could slide apart without radical change

Viktor Orban warns at party congress that EU could slide apart without radical change
Prime Minister Viktor Orban was re-elected as leader of Fidesz with 100% votes at the party's 30th congress on November 18. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews November 21, 2023

Hungary must change the EU rather than leave it, but that is only possible with radical change in Brussels, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said at the party’s 30th congress on November 18, where he was re-elected with 100% votes.

Hungary's longest-serving prime minister was president of Fidesz from 1993 to 2000 and has been its leader again since 2003.

"If things continue like this, the bloc would not explode, fall apart or collapse, but simply slide apart," he added.

Orban argued the European Commission and the European Parliament were "unabashedly circumventing their own rules.

Hungarians had developed a "European counter-model" of their own based on the principles of zero migration, a work-based economy, full employment, strong families, low taxes and a "sensible green transition", he asserted.

"We will resist the crazy ideas of Brussels bureaucrats, the migrants' invasion, the gender propaganda, and we will resist the illusions over the war (in Ukraine) and Ukraine's unprepared EU membership"

Orban’s speech at the congress kickstarted the 2024 EP and local government elections to be held at the same time. Hungary’s strongman has high hopes that radical right-wing parties make a breakthrough next summer, which could ease his isolation within the community.

Addressing the biannual congress, the prime minister declared that his government intends to oppose talks scheduled for mid-December regarding the formal invitation of Ukraine to initiate membership negotiations.

Orban said that standing in the way of Ukraine joining the EU would be one of his government's top priorities in the coming months.

"Our task will be to correct the mistaken promise to start negotiations with Ukraine, since Ukraine is now light years away from the European Union," he claimed.

Earlier this week, Hungary's leader said the bloc's strategy of sending money and military aid to Ukraine had failed.

Hungary has blocked amending the EU budget needed to provide more funding to Ukraine on the grounds that the country violates the rights of ethnic Hungarians in western Ukraine to study in their own language.

As the amendment of the EU’s budget rules and the start of accession talks also require unanimous approval from member states, it provides Hungary’s nationalist leader a powerful veto power. The EU, however, could circumvent the veto by concluding bilateral agreements with member states on Ukraine, but won’t remedy Orban's obstructive policies, analysts said. 

The Hungarian government launched campaigning heavily for European parliamentary elections over the weekend, rolling out a new national consultation survey, a tax-funded political marketing tool by the ruling party to dominate public discourse. It is aimed at stirring up the Fidesz core base. Less than 20% of eligible voters, or 1.7mn, filled out the last consultation in January, which gauged people’s view of the EU’s sanction policy against Russia, with 97% backing the government’s position.

Just as the Fidesz congress ended, the first billboards appeared on the streets of Budapest depicting EC President Ursula von der Leyen together with Alex Soros, the son of Hungarian-born billionaire and philanthropist George Soros. 

The caption on the posters reads: "We won’t dance to Brussels’ tune." Orban has used this terminology before, comparing Brussels to Moscow in his speech at the commemorations of the 1956 revolution last month.

The latest version of the national survey includes 11 questions with two alternatives to choose from. Some of the questions include false assertions that the European Commission is calling on Hungary to phase out energy subsidies.

In fact, Brussels has asked Budapest to fine-tune the programme to target vulnerable groups. Another question on the survey claims "Brussels wants to establish migrant ghettos" in Hungary, while there is one which says "grants from Brussels to Palestinian organisations have also reached Hamas."

Hungarians are also asked whether the EU should allocate more funds to Ukraine or grant it membership.