Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) depart after speaking to the media prior to talks at the Chancellery on May 8, 2014 in Berlin, Germany / Getty
“Protecting a border is not a nice thing. It is not a matter of aesthetics; it cannot be done with flowers and teddy bears,” Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán said in a number of speeches in Brussels this week. Adding that by protecting the border, “we are safeguarding the lifestyle, economic model, and safety so dearly cherished by Europeans.” He also attacked European elites, claiming that what the people of Europe want are “democratic societies“, not “open societies.”
“The leaders of Europe always seem to emerge from the same elite, the same general frame of mind, the same schools, and the same institutions that rear generation after generation of politicians to this day. They take turns implementing the same policies. (…) large masses of people today want something radically different from what traditional elites want. This is the deep cause of the restlessness, anxiety, and tension erupting on the surface, time and again, in the wake of a terrorist attack or some other act of violence, or when we confront a seemingly unstoppable tidal wave of migration.”
After claiming in 2016 that 2017 would be the “year of rebellion“, Orbán himself seems bent on leading the pack. His government’s actions on immigration have come under severe criticism from Western media and the usual ‘Human Rights’ groups, but this does not seem to stop him. Instead, Orbán has started a counteroffensive, stating that the problems Europe faces are best discussed in “an open and honest debate” on how to proceed. To declare problems or possible solutions taboo beforehand is counter productive.
Saying that the crises facing the EU have become “painfully apparent“, such as the Euro-zone financial crisis, the migration crisis and, by implication, the so-called ‘populist’ crisis, Orbán was critical of the EU’s approach: “instead of big-picture answers to a big problem, the European Union came down hard on the member states that tried their best to follow the rules and meet their responsibilities.” Instead of more of this, Orbán suggests an alternative approach:
“For decades, the mainstream answer to European problems was ‘more Europe‘. We have to recognize, however, that there are areas where we need more Europe and areas where we need less Europe. We need more Europe when common action at a European level — such as on security and defense — can help member states attain their national objectives. And there can be areas where we need less Europe, less red tape, and fewer regulatory burdens, to allow the member states to flourish through competition. (…) Europe today, is facing four different crises at the same time: crises of economic competitiveness, demography, security and foreign policy. It is time Europe confronts these problems, realize its potential and take action. It is time to make Europe great again.“