Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Lipavsky
The recent, somewhat inflated outrage over Viktor Orbán’s Veszprém speech, in which he now famously asked, “what is the point of the EU”, has been sensationalized by media outlets all over the world. The global outrage centered around the Hungarian Prime Minister’s alleged comparison of the current EU bureaucracy’s drive for a European superstate to Hitler’s ambitions to unify Europe under one rule.
One of the most reported criticisms of the Orbán analogy came from the Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Lipavsky, who, true to a genuine diplomat, reacted by saying that “no one is forcing Hungarians to be part of this community if they feel this uncomfortable.” The young politician from the radical-leftist Czech Pirates Party (Greens/EFA) did not deem the Hungarian PM’s reported thesis worthy of a counter-argument, instead snapped back with an “if you are not happy, you might as well leave” type of reply.
The television debate recorded by the Czech public broadcaster on Sunday also included the Czech European Commissioner, Vera Jourová, who in turn complained that Hungarian members of the European Parliament are lately unwilling to get photographed with her fearing “attacks” back home, as Jourová put it. It is unlikely that any Hungarian left-wing MEP would shy away from a photo opportunity with Jourová for fears of reprisals at home, however, it is true that
even opposition politicians understand how toxic the Jourová brand has become in Hungary among their own voters.
The Czech Euro-commissioner is regarded by many as the most active official in Brussels behind the refusal to pay Hungary’s European funds. Since her single-handed rejection of one of the most important Hungarian human-rights initiatives of the past decade in 2021, that of the Minority Safepack meant to guarantee the rights of Europe’s indigenous minorities, her name reverberates with the public at every attack against Hungarian national minorities from Ukraine to Romania, regardless of political allegiances.
As to the alleged “Hitler-comparison,” Lipavsky had reacted on the basis of reports in the Czech and international media that have omitted to publish the entire speech in which this statement has appeared. One would expect a little more due diligence from a European foreign minister before going on the offensive against one of his country’s EU and NATO allies, but sitting in the same studio with the Hungarian government’s European nemesis, Vera Jourová is clearly not conducive to a balanced opinion regarding Viktor Orbán.
Vera Jourová. Photo: European Commission
In his Veszprém address, the Hungarian Prime Minister said that “Byzantium, Charlemagne, King Otokar II, Napoleon, and Hitler all dreamed of European unity on different foundations, but all of them dreamed of European unity.”
The idea of an independent national existence and the idea of empire, national culture and European values, sovereignty and “ever closer union” are all present at European politics today,
claimed Viktor Orbán. Granted, the audience would have gotten the message if he stopped at Napoleon in his list of comparisons, analogies with Hitler inevitably trigger strong reactions, even though he made it clear that all of the above dreamed of European unity on different foundations.
Contrary to tendentious reports, Orbán did not even go as far in his speech as to express a one-sided preference towards a Europe of nation-states, instead, he voiced his hope that “if we are lucky, we will find the delicate balance between national sovereignty and European cooperation”. If not, the project will “go wrong” and become a “minefield of national conflicts” or a “bureaucratic power machine” that abuses its power. Mr. Lipavsky was also blissfully unaware of the fact that Prime Minister Orbán had concluded his above speech with the words – “long live the European Union”.
Viktor Orbán’s main point, namely that the EU is for keeping the peace between nation-states and generating economic prosperity among them, went almost unreported in the European media. Only his subsequent question had seen the light of day, in which he asks “what is the point of the EU”, if it is unable or unwilling to fulfill this fundamental task? Journalists were quick to conclude that he is signaling some kind of a future Huxit, but nothing could be further from the truth. The European radical left’s, of which Lipavsky and Jourová are archetypal representatives, “if you are not happy with our decisions, then close the door on your way out” attitude signals the presence of the very bureaucratic overreach that Orbán was talking about.
Much has been made of the recent fall of the EU’s popularity among the Hungarian public (39 percent), that was explained by some global media outlets as a result of the Hungarian government’s allegedly Europhobic propaganda. Then again, they failed to mention that the EU’s popularity is falling across the field, and Lipavsky’s own country is six points behind Hungary with 33 percent. Only in Slovakia has the EU fewer supporters than in Czechia, with 32 percent. The lack of plausible arguments to important questions, such as finding the balance between national sovereignty and European unity, will only fuel anti-European sentiments in times of war and economic hardship, when unity in fundamental issues should be paramount. The EU’s “take it or leave it” attitude will not cut it with the majority of the continents’ population, however witty it might sound in television talk-show populated solely by the now dominant progressive elite.
Featured Image: Facebook Jan Lipavsky