26th Sep 2023

Orbán's 'racist' speech condemned, after week's delay

  • Hungary's prime minister Vitkor Orbán and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen at an earlier meeting on the recovery fund (Photo: European Commission)
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Top EU officials have condemned Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán's speech for "openly racist" remarks — a week after the Hungarian premier delivered his traditional summer policy speech.

"All EU member states, including Hungary, signed up to common global values," EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told the Slovak news site aktuality.sk on Saturday (30 July).

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She added that "discriminating on the basis of race is to trample on those values", and that the EU is built on "equality, tolerance, justice and fair play," but without mentioning Orbán specifically.

In that speech, Orbán said that Hungarian do not want to be "mixed race", like many societies in Western Europe have become.

Over the weekend, leaders of the European Parliament's main political parties also issued a statement saying they "strongly condemn the recent openly-racist declaration".

The parties also called on the commission and the council of member states to condemn the statement.

The parties said member states should issue recommendations to Hungary under the Article 7 sanctions procedure, which has been going on for four years without tangible results.

The aim of the procedure is to see if a member states is breaking fundamental EU values and make sure the country corrects its path.

The parties also urged the EU executive not to release EU funds to Hungary under the Covid-19 recovery funds over rule-of-law concerns.

Government spokesman Zoltán Kovács said Orban's speech had been "misinterpreted" by those who "clearly don't understand the difference between the mixing of different ethnic groups that all originate in the Judeo-Christian cultural sphere, and the mixing of peoples from different civilisations", AFP reported.

Last Thursday, Orbán also said he was misunderstood.

"It happens sometimes that I speak in a way that can be misunderstood... the position that I represent is a cultural standpoint," Orban told reporters during a visit to Austria, where he was booed by protestors.

A longtime Orbán adviser resigned last Tuesday in the aftermath of the fallout from the prime minister's words, calling the speech "a pure Nazi text." However, over the weekend she withdrew her resignation, saying Orbán's explanation was sufficient enough.

Deep trouble

The uproar over Orbán's speech hides Hungary's deep economic woes, fuelled by steep inflation, rising energy costs, and the unsustainability of the price-cap policy.

Over the weekend, Orbán's government narrowed eligibility for price-capped petrol and diesel to privately-owned vehicles, farm vehicles and taxis, which would exclude company-owned cars.

A government decree published on Saturday said that it will increase a windfall tax on oil and gas group MOL's profits to 40 percent from 25 percent, Reuters reported.

A series of windfall taxes on banks and certain companies was introduced in May in a bid to help rein in a soaring budget deficit.

The government also announced that it will allow companies to pay their taxes in euros or dollars, to boost the country's reserves as its own currency, the forint, is weakening.

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