The European Parliament held a debate on Tuesday regarding earlier comments on capital punishment and immigration made by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Orbán also spoke at the debate, making it clear that he rejected limits on his ability to run Hungary however he sees fit, says former Hungarian foreign minister Péter Balázs, who believes the head of government is “playing with fire”, and that Orbán’s statements may have very serious consequences for Hungary.
Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission, opened Tuesday’s debate by stating that inciting fear of immigrants was harmful and only gives rise to prejudice, and the EC is prepared to use all means at its disposal to compel Hungary and other member states to meet EU obligations.
Timmerman`s words were evidently lost on Viktor Orbán, who started his speech by saying that “we Hungarians would like for Europe to be for the Europeans, just as we would protest Hungary for the Hungarians.” Orbán said it was necessary to modify agreements regarding immigration and that the right to protect their own borders should be returned to the member states. “It is madness for us to allow immigrants into Europe and distribute them on the basis of a determined quota.”
With regard to criticism of the national consultation on immigration currently under way in Hungary, Orbán repeated that Hungary had not signed any agreement regarding what is and what is not permissible to discuss, and he considered it a violation of EU covenants “for anyone to tell us what we can speak about and what we cannot.”
With regard to capital punishment, Orbán assured the European Parliament that Hungary would only modify its laws in a manner that is compliant with EU law, but that these laws were not engraved in stone, and not created by God, and for this reason could be changed. “This is freedom, this is democracy,” Orbán lectured the EP.
Commenting on Orbán’s performance, Balázs told ATV’s Olga Kálman that this was “a one-man show”. Hungary’s first European commissioner said Hungary’s domestic politics had “spilled over onto the table of the European Parliament, and bared its teeth.” He said it was obvious that Hungary was drifting further to the right, and all the prime minister wants is “to be the unlimited ruler of Hungary.” He said that behind Orbán’s rhetoric was a desire to strengthen his domestic support, and little else.
Balázs said raising the issue of the death penalty in Europe was similar to raising the issue of slavery, which he fears awaits Hungary if the “squire’s law of the sword” is restored.
He said Orbán believes Hungary always emerges stronger from such debates, and this is certainly Orbán’s goal, even though such statements turn the majority of the European People’s Party against him.
The head of government has chosen a dangerous strategy and is playing with fire, according to Balázs. “He is further tightening the string but one day will cross into the red,” said the former foreign minister, warning that sooner or later these statements will force Europe to take action.
Blazes told ATV that what Orbán does politically domestically, he cannot do in the European Parliament. He said there could be very serious political consequences and that Orbán’s statements in the EP amounted to a large step towards the time when virtually all of Europe turns against him, including his own European People’s Party.