Speaking to Hungarian state media’s Kossuth Radio on Friday morning, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán claimed that his government’s controversial new “Stop Soros” legislation proposal will “create a new situation” in which “all, including George Soros, can decide if they stop or continue organizing and supporting illegal migration.
The “Stop Soros” laws (which you can read more about here) are but the latest salvo in the Orbán government’s ongoing campaign against Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros. The PM’s ruling Fidesz party has spent millions of euros on controversial billboard campaigns and a “National Consultation” questionnaire aimed at painting Soros as the ‘enemy of the Hungarian people‘ who is hell-bent on forcing the country to take in millions of migrants that Orbán himself has described as “Muslim invaders.” Soros himself has repeatedly and vehemently denied Such claims as mere slander and propaganda.
Orbán insisted that his government wanted to prevent the country from becoming a destination for immigrants, and sought to thwart “those that organised and finance migration”. He said that “pseudo-civil groups managing illegal migration” will be required to submit special reports to the authorities and their finances will be “scrutinized under a magnifying glass”; they will pay a 25% tax on “funds used to support migration” including funds from the European Union. People “affected” will be banned from border zones including Budapest’s international airport, while foreign nationals could be banned from the country, Orbán said.
We want to keep everybody outside the country whose activities are fundamentally against the interests of the Hungarian people.
Orban said that the new laws would help “keep out of the country” those that continue supporting illegal migration.
Prim Minister Viktor Orbán in the studios of Kossuth Radio’s show “180 Perc (180 Minutes”, on January 19th (Photo: MTI – Szilárd Koszticsák)
It is unclear how these laws, if passed, would hold up in court, as the proposal to ban certain Hungarians from coming within 8 kilometers of the country’s Schengen zone border would seem to directly contradict European Union laws and fundamental principles related to the free movement of peoples.
The proposed laws have already drawn sharp international criticism, with NGOs calling it “part of the Putin playbook” and experts describing it as “utter nonsense” that is nothing more than
the next step along the way of undermining NGOs and distracting public opinion from actual problems like corruption.
Continuing his discussion of migration, Orbán claimed that Hungary’s policy is unchanged: it will not take in migrants or resettle anyone in the country.
He then turned to an issue whose facts, some have argued, would seem to directly contradict such a statement: the recent revelation that, despite Fidesz’s longstanding rhetoric on the “dangers” of migrants, Hungary quietly admitted around 1,300 refugees in the last year alone, a number just slightly higher than the 1,294 that the country would have had to take in under the EU quota system that Orbán has spent much of the past two years railing against.
Responding to the opposition’s charges that Fidesz rhetoric on migrants has been nothing more than hypocritical, empty propaganda, the PM argued that Hungary complies with international treaties on asylum that have been recognised by the country’s legal system. Echoing language that his government has adopted in response to this controversy, Orbán claimed that if someone is in need of international protection, Hungary will provide them with temporary protection.
The Prime Minister attempted to draw a distinction that his government has hitherto been far less careful to make in its rhetoric, claiming that people given subsidiary protection based on international law are different from migrants. Migrants entered Hungary illegally, while the 1,300 individuals in question “knocked on the door” seeking protection, the prime minister added. If they are indeed in need of protection, Hungary will grant that on a temporary basis. But once they no longer require protection, they need to go back to the country they came from, Orbán insisted, adding that they would never become Hungarian citizens. He also said that, currently, there are 491 asylum seekers in the country.
Orbán’s current, relatively positive appraisal of vetted refugees directly contradicts statements he made last summer, when he expressed support for residents of the Hungarian town of Őcsény, who had made death threats and slashed tires to protest the possibility of refugee children coming to vacation there for a short time. At that time, Orbán said there was “nothing wrong” with the protests, which international observers argued had made Őcsény into “a byword for racial fear.”
Touching upon Hungary-Poland relations, Orbán said he had a telephone exchange with Mateusz Morawiecki, his new Polish counterpart, at which the parties confirmed their countries’ commitment to their earlier position on migration, rejecting mandatory quotas. The Premier said that the Polish government can rely on Hungary’s support with regards to the EU’s infringement procedures against Poland. Discussing these procedures, the Hungarian PM claimed that “An honest member cannot be subject to a procedure under unjustified charges.” In launching this procedure, the European Commission expressed its view that “there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in Poland,” largely due to controversial judicial reforms that the EC worries will seriously erode judicial independence.
Turning to another topic, Orban said that the prime ministers of the Visegrád Group — Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia — would decide on the time frame for establishing a regional development bank at a summit in Budapest next Friday.
The Prime Minister reiterated remarks he made at a meeting of German business leaders earlier in January on seeking financing from China for infrastructure developments in the region.
The Premier said that the European Union’s regional cohesion funds are limited, and if funding from European institutions, such as development banks, is insufficient or too costly, central Europe needs to seek financing from outside of Europe. One option could be China, Orban said, noting that China is willing to finance development programmes in central Europe with better conditions than European ones. Going further, Orbán argued that the Communist country
is not a danger but an opportunity.
Via MTI, magyaridok.hu, Reuters, the Financial Times, Aljazeera, and The Telegraph
Images via MTI