Hungary’s far-right says it no longer wants to leave the European Union as the migration crisis is offering populist parties, in resurgence across the continent, a chance to “transform” the bloc.
“The EU will change over the next five to 10 years, and for the first time it may be for the better,” wrote Jobbik party chairman Gábor Vona, 37, in a Facebook post published late yesterday (2 June).
Vona, founder of a disbanded paramilitary group who made a career vilifying the Roma, has recently cleaned up his hardline image.
“Leaving the EU is no longer on the agenda,” the recently re-elected leader also told commercial broadcaster Inforadio earlier this week.
“Let’s look at the issue of migration for example: it’s a serious challenge for the EU, which proves that certain mechanisms currently in place need to be changed.”
The remarks represent a big U-turn for the party, which used to burn the EU flag at public rallies and campaign hard for Hungarians to quit the bloc.
But under Vona’s leadership, Jobbik has toned down the radical rhetoric in an effort to polish its image and edge towards the centre, attacking the power base of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party.
The far-right is now the second strongest party in the country, scoring around 20% in opinion polls ahead of the next scheduled general election in 2018. Fidesz meanwhile gets around 40%.
Jobbik’s growing popularity mirrors the success of other populist parties across Europe, most recently in Austria, where the Freedom Party narrowly missed out on producing the bloc’s first far-right president in a knife-edge run-off last month.
“I think the political palette of the entire EU will change… New parties are forming. What is sure is that our party will be among those changing the 21st century,” Vonda said.
Hungary, which joined the bloc in 2004, is one of the main beneficiaries of EU aid.