Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

EU commission's counter-Orban claims unlikely to work, NGO says

  • Viktor Orban (l) is leading a national crusade against immigrants (Photo: premier.gov.pl)

Hungary's grip on the media and its chilling effects against the opposition will likely obstruct efforts by the European Commission to counter the Fidesz-led government's anti-EU rhetoric, says a leading Budapest-based NGO.

"There is a media landscape now where the government has basically 500 media outlets, all the regional newspapers and the whole entire public broadcast media," Marta Pardavi, who co-chairs the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, told this website on Thursday (28 February).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Pardavi's comments follow commission statements, also on Thursday, to dispel what the EU-executive says are Hungarian government lies "to paint a dark picture of a secret plot to drive more migration to Europe".

Budapest, under the right-wing leadership of Viktor Orban, has been spearheading a national campaign against the European commission and the EU's broader migration policies.

The government has made a series of bogus claims in a "You too have the right to know what Brussels is planning!" campaign.

It falsely claims the EU wants to impose mandatory resettlement quotas, when in fact it is up to EU states to decide on a voluntary basis how many UN-recognised refugees they want to take.

It also suggests that prepaid debit cards to help refugees in Greece with things like food are traded elsewhere, when in fact the cards cannot be used in other countries.

The commission told reporters in Brussels on Thursday that it intends to get its message out to the Hungarian people through social media and its EU representation on the ground.

"We have a Hungarian translation of the text," noted EU commission spokesperson, Mina Andreeva.

But Pardavi says while the commission's message to counter Orban's propaganda is needed, the impact will be limited.

"The commission, given this media landscape I think, will need to do a little bit more than putting out this statement," she said.

Civil society in Hungary that try to counter Orban's rhetoric are also at risk of hefty fines imposed through a special immigration tax.

Pardavi says the tax law, which has yet to be imposed, is causing a chilling effect on civil society because it targets NGOs that promote migration.

"I think this special immigration tax [was] actually created, not only to stifle freedom of speech on migration, but actually to stifle Hungarian society from a having a real debate on migration," she said.

It means efforts to spread or amplify the commission's message issued on Thursday are rendered all the more risky for Hungarian civil society.

Orban has since 2010 moved to limit the space for opposition, installed government-friendly loyalists in the Constitutional Court, tweaked the electoral system to favour his party, and passed a so-called Stop Soros Act that also makes it a criminal offence to help asylum-seekers.

The same court on Thursday appeared to back the Stop Soros Act, after Amnesty International Hungary denounced it as a violation of free expression.

The court had found that helping people in need should not be covered by the criminal provision of the law - but then left it up to the criminal courts to interpret this provision in practice.

EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news

The European Commission has branded the latest campaign by the Hungarian government as 'fake news', after Orban's government accused Juncker of pressing ahead with migration proposals that threaten the country's security.

EPP hits threshold to trigger Orban expulsion probe

At least seven national parties from Europe's biggest political alliance, the centre-right European People's Party, want the group's 'enfant terrible', Hungary's nationalist and authoritarian Fidesz kicked out - following Budapest's latest anti-EU campaign.

Orban says 'sorry', EPP says 'not enough'

As the European People's Party braces itself to decide next week whether to expel its Hungarian member, prime minister Viktor Orban says sorry for calling his critics "useful idiots".

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us