Commission unmoved by Orbán’s ‘Stop Europe’ initiative

Viktor Orbán signs the Rome Declaration. [European Council]

Hungary launched an initiative called “Let’s stop Brussels” shortly after its prime minister returned from the Rome summit. Asked about it today (4 April), the Commission highlighted the fact that Viktor Orbán had signed the strongly pro-European text only days before.

Questionnaires titled “Let’s stop Brussels!” have been arriving in Hungarian letterboxes, after the initiative was launched on 1 April, only days after leaders gathered in Rome to mark the EU’s 60th anniversary.

On EU’s 60th anniversary, leaders give Union a 10-year horizon

On the day proclaimed as the EU’s 60th anniversary, with the Union looking weaker than ever, EU leaders adopted the Rome Declaration and gave a ten-year horizon for the project of the founding fathers to be reset.

All Hungarian citizens are being asked their advice on how to deal with EU policies that it says threaten Hungarian independence.

The six questions on the survey mostly ask citizens “what Hungary should do” about EU policies on immigration and economic issues like tax-raising powers.

For example, one question asks “what Hungary should do” as “despite a series of recent terror attacks in Europe… Brussels wants to force Hungary to let in illegal immigrants”.

The answer options are: “Illegal immigrants should be kept under supervision until the authorities decide in their cases”; and “We should allow illegal immigrants to move freely in Hungary”.

The survey, called a “National Consultation 2017”, follows the coming into force last week of new rules allowing the indefinite detention of migrants in border container camps.

Hungary 'ready to detain all migrants'

Hungary said yesterday (27 March) it was ready to begin detaining asylum-seekers in camps on its southern border with Serbia after passing a law this month that has drawn criticism from rights groups and the UN.

Other questions in the survey ask citizens about international nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) that the government says support illegal immigration or “interfere” in Hungary’s internal affairs.

‘No dichotomy’

Asked about the Commission’s reaction, deputy chief spokesperson Alexander Winterstein pointed out that the Rome Declaration was also signed by Orbán.

“We have built a unique union with common institutions,” he read from the Rome Declaration itself, explaining that “we” means the leaders of the 27 and the EU institutions.

“There is no such thing as institutions versus capitals. […] This dichotomy between institutions and Brussels on one hand, and capitals on the other hand, doesn’t exist,” Winterstein added.

He further quoted Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker from the EPP summit in Malta on 30 March.

“It is time that convinced Europeans stood up for Europe and stopped using Brussels-bashing as a domestic policy tool,” Winterstein quoted from the speech. He also repeated Juncker saying: “Patriotism is a good thing but patriotism is not patriotism when it’s used against others, and we have no right to be patriotic against each other”.

EPP solidarity

But Juncker’s words at the EPP summit had no particular addressee, and Orbán himself used the forum to attack EU policies on migration, as well as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Orban attacks the European Court of Human Rights

Speaking today (30 March) at the annual congress of the European People’s Party (EPP) in Malta, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán fiercely attacked migration, calling it a “Trojan Horse of terrorism.” He also attacked the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Both Juncker and Orbán are affiliated to the EPP, the EU’s largest political family.

In recent months, the government moved to clamp down on NGOs that it has called “political players” and “paid activists”, particularly those funded by Hungarian-born billionaire investor George Soros. It is likely that the Central European University (CEU) founded by Soros could be forced out of the country.

Under-threat Soros university thrown lifeline by other European cities

A Budapest university founded by billionaire George Soros, which is threatened with closure by Hungarian government legislation fast tracked today (4 April), has already received a number of offers from other EU countries to host the seat of learning.

It has also organised a referendum against the EU’s migration policies, which actually failed due to low turnout.

It was revealed that Hungary’s Commissioner, Tibor Navracsics, voted ‘no’ in the referendum, in which Hungarians were asked whether they approved EU-wide quotas to relocate asylum seekers.

In Hungarian referendum, EU's Navracsics voted against Brussels

The EU’s Hungarian Commissioner, Tibor Navracsics, said in his home country that he had voted ‘no’ in last weekend’s referendum, in which Hungarians were asked whether they approved EU-wide quotas to relocate asylum seekers.

Now Navracsics, whose portfolio includes education, culture, youth and sports, oversees the case of the Central European University (CEU).

Asked by EURACTIV if there was a conflict of interest there, Winterstein refuted the suggestion.

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