Hungarian foreign minister claims Brussels criticizes his government because it objects to a ‘radical immigration plan.
Hungary’s government is looking for a fight.
Less than three weeks after a landslide election win, the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is still in campaign mode.
Since the April 8 election, when Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party gained two-thirds of seats in parliament, the government has intensified its attacks on independent civil society groups and the European Parliament, dashing hopes among some European conservatives that Orbán’s reelection would bring about a moderation in the Hungarian government’s policies.
“Within the walls of this respected building many tried to influence the outcome of the Hungarian parliamentary election,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said Thursday in a speech to members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.
“The Hungarian people appear on the Hungarian election’s name rolls, while you don’t,” the minister told MEPs.
The committee is considering a draft report on the state of rule of law in Hungary, authored by Judith Sargentini, a Dutch Green MEP and rapporteur on the issue. The draft describes a “systemic threat to democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary” and raises concerns on issues ranging from independence of the judiciary to freedom of expression and the rights of Roma and Jewish minorities and refugees.
Szijjártó, who in his speech referred to the report as “lies” and focused on rejecting charges of anti-Semitism, insisted on travelling to Brussels and speaking at the hearing despite the fact that, legally, the Hungarian government has no role in the committee’s proceedings.
The minister’s speech made headlines across pro-government domestic media, and state television broadcast it live.
“When you criticize Hungary, you criticize because we stand in your way, and because of us you can’t implement your radical immigration plan undisturbed,” the minister said, adding that Hungary’s government will not allow “the Soros plan” to be implemented.
The Hungarian government has repeatedly claimed that Hungarian-American businessman George Soros controls a shadowy international network — including members of the European Parliament, domestic opposition politicians, and journalists — that is intent on undermining Hungary’s national interest and creating a “mixed” population by brining in immigrants.
Some MEPs reacted angrily to the foreign minister’s remarks.
German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht said during the debate that the Hungarian minister delivered “one of the most disrespectful speeches I have ever heard in this room. You switched to propaganda mode, and you didn’t deal with any of the criticism.”
The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs is expected to approve Sargentini’s report on Hungary in June, while the full plenary will consider it in September.
But even if members of the European Parliament pass the resolution and call for sanctions on Hungary, sanctions under Article 7 are a highly unlikely prospect for Budapest: They would have to approved by all member countries and Poland has vowed to veto any such move.
“This was another opportunity to use the European Parliament to reach out to his constituents at home,” Sargentini said. “If you want to be constructive, you can’t call the rapporteur a liar,” she added.