According to reports, an unprecedented barrage of criticism was unleashed on Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the latest EU summit on Thursday when the government’s newly adopted bill which many consider discriminatory against the LGBTQI community was firmly attacked by numerous EU leaders. The debate continued on Friday in a similarly personal fashion. By the end of the day, the Hungarian prime minister reportedly found himself almost completely isolated, with only the Polish and Slovenian premiers standing up for him.
The European Council meeting of EU heads of state and government and the president of the European Commission, which started on Thursday, continued the next day as well. Besides Putin’s Russia, another key topic remained the legislation adopted by the Hungarian parliament and deemed by Hungary’s political opposition, several NGOs and individuals an anti-LGBT+ law.
Luxembourg PM: ‘No longer the Viktor Orbán I used to know’
“The Viktor I have seen at the table is not the same person I met eight years ago, who was an open and tolerant person,” Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told reporters on Friday. The openly gay politician recalled that 5-7 years ago, Viktor Orbán even had dinner with him and his husband in Budapest.
Bettel now believes legal procedures must be launched to respond to Hungary’s new law.
“It is sad that we reached that stage,” Bettel said, adding that giving judges rather than politicians the duty to give the EU a “spinal cord” is “not a good sign for Europe.”
Regarding Friday’s debate, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, she can’t remember EU leaders ever having a discussion as tough as the one they had on Hungary.
“We had a deep discussion with Hungary,” she told journalists according to Politico. She said the debate was “very open,” but this discussion is not yet finished, however, it was honest and important. “We have not had it in this depth and honesty either, at least not that I can remember, in this large-format,” she said, adding that “it was not a harmonious discussion, but one with controversy.”
Speaking in Berlin on Monday, the German Chancellor said
that in her government’s view, the new Hungarian law discriminates against homosexual minors. In last week’s “very comprehensive” debate on the Hungarian legislation, the vast majority of EC members underlined that the EU is not simply an internal market, but also has fundamental values, and that these values cannot be questioned, she said. However, the “room for maneuver to enforce them is very limited” and therefore “false expectations must not be generated,” Angela Merkel said.
Council President Charles Michel also told journalists that the debate was “difficult”. When asked if he agreed with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s suggestion that Hungary should perhaps leave the EU if it could not respect fundamental values, Michel evaded the question. He said that he was “ totally convinced that what’s very important, what’s paramount is to reaffirm the primacy of the European law, the primacy of the European values.” He added that “we had a very sincere, sometimes emotional, exchange of views, exchange of arguments.”
“Regarding the new legislation in Hungary, most members of the European Council were clear about this and felt it was an infringement” of European values, said Portuguese PM António Costa.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he felt compelled to heavily criticize Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán — even suggesting that Hungary could leave the EU — because the country’s anti-LGTBQ+ law was unlike any previous law from Orbán.
Meanwhile, EC President Ursula von der Leyen said there were good reasons for Hungary to stay in the EU but “this new Hungarian law clearly unequivocally discriminates. … We will take action to counter this,” she said. Von der Leyen agreed with Italy’s PM Mario Draghi that the legislation was even a violation of Christian morals.
Even though French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the Hungarian law he also emphasized that he doesn’t support the idea of Hungary quitting the bloc.
Slovenia PM: we don’t want another division in Europe
However, as the vast majority of Member States were united in their opposition to the law, only the leaders of Poland and Slovenia tried to defend it.
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša told reporters that when it came to the leaders’ discussion on Hungary’s anti-LGBT+ law, “Slovenia and many other countries do not want to be part of any new divisions in Europe.”
Janša said that if there is a problem with any law, in any EU country, there are legal mechanisms in place and that “in the end, we get a legal decision that we all have to respect and abide by.”
Later in a television interview, Czech President Milos Zeman also defended the Hungarian law, saying that he finds transgender people “disgusting.”
“If you undergo a sex-change operation you are basically committing a crime of self-harm,” Zeman told CNN Prima.
Orbán: current debate “eerily similar” to that of 2015
Likely as a result of Friday’s debate, Viktor Orbán issued a samizdat on Monday in which he described the current debate as “eerily similar” to the one in 2015 over the “migrant invasion of Europe.”
“Both were morally difficult, politically important and intellectually beautiful debates. In both cases, the answer is the same: there is no unity of values and therefore no political unity either,” Orbán wrote.
In addition, the government has decided to publish full-page advertisements in several European newspapers showcasing PM Orbán’s proposal for the future of the EU, collected in seven points.
Featured photo by Zoltán Fischer/MTI