Brussels is creating a European superstate instead of a Europe of nation states, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Saturday, insisting that “national democrats” opposed the makers of empires, who were in turn “opponents of democracy”.
Addressing a conference marking Hungarian Independence Day, Orbán said Europe as a “cultural formation” was “fabulous” and “cannot be copied”. Places attempting to make European culture their own had fallen short, he said. Europe “is eternal”, he added.
But the European Union, Orbán said, was a political body created by countries defending their economic and military interests after the second world war when the US and Soviet Union vied with each other on the continent.
“The EU was created to ensure that Europeans once again decided Europe’s fate,” he said.
Today, however, Europe was not actively improving or transforming itself, Orbán said. “It is we who must improve and transform it, and lead it back to its former successful path.”
Orbán said the EU’s economic power was declining, noting that its share of the world’s GDP had shrunk from 25 percent in 2008 to 18 percent in 2019, while its share of industrial output had declined from 22 percent to 15. None of the world’s ten largest financial centres are located within the EU, while he EU filed seven times as many patent applications as China 30 years ago; today China has fourteen times as many as the EU, he said. The prime minister said that whereas the US had increased its military spending by more than 30 percent in the past 30 years, and China ninefold, the EU spending had remained stagnant.
Orbán said “today is the day of Hungarian freedom, thirty years since we won the Cold War.” Soviets, he added, no longer had the strength or means to unit the socialist camp. Freedom, he said, didn’t just come about but was won, and communism didn’t just die but was overthrown.
“Today we’re the same as we’ve always been: Europe’s last freedom fighters. The history of Europe did not simply change; we changed it.”
Orbán insisted that Europe was in need of “freedom fighters of our own kind”.
Citing Vaclav Klaus, he said the individual, the family and the nation were “under attack” on all fronts, endangering Europe’s future. Meanwhile, one European vice-president had branded Hungary — which he said was fighting for the essence of what made Europe a democracy — as “a sick democracy”, he said.
He accused the EU of skating towards building an imperial superstate in Brussels without a democratic mandate instead of conceiving of a Europe of nations. A European “demos” doesn’t exist; only nations do. “Democracy can’t be built without a demos,” Orbán said, adding that an empire in Brussels would end up lacking democratic legitimacy.
“What we want is a democracy of democracies based on European nations,” he said.
The prime minister said the powerholders of Brussels saw integration not as a means but as an end in itself, and they were intent to ride roughshod over national interests and traditional values. EU’s legal systems, he added, helped rather than hindered this endeavour.
He accused his political opponents of seeking to weaken natural communities that formed the bedrock of European culture. Hungary’s government therefore wants the term “ever closer union” to be excised from the Treaty on European Union, he said.
The prime minister also accused Brussels of having “outsourced” a sizable portion of its power to “networks managed from outside Europe”, referring to “the Soros networks” and the US Democratic Party interests behind it.
First, the European Commission transformed from a once politically impartial guardian of the bloc’s treaties to being a political body, he said, adding that this had taken place openly with a public announcement to that effect by President Jean-Claude Juncker. This is why, he said, the British and Hungarians had refused to back Juncker as the bloc’s president, arguing Juncker’s stance had ultimately led to Brexit.
Orbán said a politicised commission was now preparing reports on the rule of law regarding EU member states by outsourcing the work to “pseudo-civil organisations” operating in them — all of them part of “George Soros’s network”.
Democratically elected governments were then evaluated using information and opinions provided by these NGOs, with punishments then meted out accordingly, Orbán said, adding that this amounted to “an abuse of the power” — made possible because nation states had handed their sovereign powers to Brussels.
Meanwhile, the prime minister insisted the EU was “destined to fall apart” unless its economy started performing successfully. The EU was based on the idea that member states can achieve greater economic success together than separately, he said. “If it turns out, economically speaking, that we are more successful … separate than together, the EU will be finished,” he added.
“So those of us who are dedicated to the EU must support policies that focus exclusively on our common economic success,” he said.
Brussels, he added, was busy “fighting with itself and the member states, lecturing and threatening them, exerting pressure and imposing fines”. He called this “a self-destructive abuse of power”.
Orbán said the upcoming decade heralded “dangerous challenges, migration, epidemics and pandemics,”. It was, he added, “vital to maintain security and the success of the global economy in such a dangerous period.” He said a precondition of success was restoring democracy. The prime minister called for a new institution to be set up comprising the constitutional courts of member states with a mandate to protect their national and constitutional identity.
Orbán insisted the European Parliament had proven itself “a dead-end” of European democracy, pursuing its own ideological and institutional interests. So national parliaments should be boosted, he said, proposing that national parliaments should send delegates to the EP, following the example of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. They should be given the power to stop EU legislation national spheres of authority are violated, he added.
Finally, the government contends that Serbia should be given EU membership because this would serve the interests of the EU even more than the interests of Serbians, he said.
Orbán said a debate was under way concerning the future of the EU. Finally, he said, it was possible to discuss problems openly as well as those things that citizens of member states find hurtful and harmful.
The debate about the EU’s future has given Hungary a podium from which it can stop the “Sovietisation of the European Union and Brussels turning into Moscow,” he said, adding that Hungarians had fought for their freedom, whereas westerners inherited it; “a world of difference”.
“Times have changed, and whereas thirty years ago we believed Europe was our future, today we understand that we are Europe’s future”, he said.
Orbán said “we must have the courage to be democrats and freedom fighters in Europe; this is the only path towards a European renaissance”.
Featured photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI