The reaction to Viktor Orban’s anti-EU speech shows how isolated Hungary is

In his traditional speech in the Transylvanian spa town of Bad Tuschnad, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban predicted the downfall of the United States and Europe. Hungary, on the other hand, has risen again under his leadership.

Southeastern Transylvania is an idyllic area. There is hardly any industry and a lot of nature. The villages seem to have fallen out of time, life in them seems like in a museum.

Here, in Szeklerland, lives the largest part of Romania’s Hungarian minority, around 600,000 people. For Hungarians, the area has a mythical meaning, because the Szekler Hungarians speak a traditional Hungarian and are considered proud, freedom-loving and extremely tradition-conscious people.

In the Szekler mountain resort of Bad Tuschnad (Baile Tusnad), Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party has been organizing a so-called free summer university every July for more than 30 years. For a long time, it was a forum for the Romanian-Hungarian dialogue – a dialogue between politicians from two nations that were historically just as enemies as Germany and France once were. In the past decade, however, the Tuschna Summer University made headlines mainly because Viktor Orban regularly let off steam here.

Weak West, strong Hungary

The Hungarian prime minister held his most important programmatic speech of the year here – outside of Hungary, mind you, but in an area that belonged to the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy until 1918. In 2014 Orban presented his concept of an “illiberal state” for the first time in Bad Tuschnad, last year he said that Hungarians did not want to become “mixed race”.

In general, Orban presents himself in Bad Tuschnad as both a prophet of doom and a savior. He paints a picture of a weak, degenerate West, which he contrasts with a strong, Christian nationalist Hungary under his leadership. Incidentally, the Budapest prime minister likes to strike polemical and hostile tones against Romania – in a way as if Transylvania were still part of Hungary and he, Orban, was the master of the country.

Beginning of a beautiful friendship?

This year, however, seemed to be in for a surprise. For the first time in many years, Orban traveled to Bucharest shortly before his speech in Bad Tuschnad and met the current Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu there. His Social Democratic Party (PSD) is ideologically very close to Orban’s right-wing nationalist Fidesz. Over a private lunch, Ciolacu and Orban outlined the massive project of a high-speed rail link between Budapest and Bucharest, while Hungary’s prime minister also lobbied for Romanian investment in his country. Orban then wrote on Facebook about the meeting: “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

But anyone who expected Hungary’s prime minister to adopt a moderate tone in Bad Tuschnad, be it towards Romania or even towards Europe, was disappointed. Orban’s speech was a sarcastic, at times vicious polemic against the West, the US and the EU. The western values ​​are “migration, LGBTQ and war”. The US has lost its leading position in the world to China, it is therefore dangerous and could plunge the whole world into war. The EU wants to implement the project of “population exchange” by migrants and strives to undermine the traditional Christian foundation of Europe through “LGBTQ ideology”.

reconnaissance failed

Orban declared the great European project of enlightenment to have failed. “More than 200 years ago, left-wing internationalist and liberal intellectuals and political leaders thought that by rejecting religion and Christianity, an ideal enlightened community would emerge,” Orban said. “It was pure illusion. By rejecting Christianity, we have actually become hedonistic pagans.”

According to Orban, Hungary is the only country in Europe that has drawn the right conclusions from this – because it has the only constitution in Europe that does not focus on “I” but on “We”. It was not for nothing that Hungary’s new constitution was promulgated at Easter in 2011 – an allusion to the festival of resurrection and victory over death.

“Transylvania not a Romanian territory”

And finally, Orban destroyed the “beautiful friendship” with Romania, which hadn’t really started yet. He mocked his counterpart Ciolacu as the “20th Romanian Prime Minister” since his own inauguration in 2010 (which was wrongly counted, he was 18th). And he poked fun at a diplomatic note he received from Romania’s Foreign Ministry asking him not to speak about certain matters “sensitive to Romania”. Among other things, Orban quoted, he should not talk about “non-existent Romanian administrative areas” – an allusion to autonomy demands for the Hungarians in Szeklerland. “We never claimed that Transylvania and Szeklerland are Romanian entities,” Orban polemicized. It was the moment in his speech when he received the longest applause.

All in all, Hungary’s prime minister did not express any fundamentally new ideas in his speech or anything that he had not already said in one form or another, sometimes openly, sometimes in secrecy. What is new and noteworthy about this year’s speech in Bad Tuschnad, on the other hand, is the depth of his anti-Americanism and his contempt for Europe, as well as the admiring glorification of China and the offensive indulgence towards Russia. Also new is the increasing willfulness with which Orban twists facts, for example when he talks about the Enlightenment or accuses “the West” that war is one of its core values.

Hungary: Internationally isolated

Orban has also been nostalgic for Greater Hungary for years – for example, there is a historical map of Greater Hungary hanging in his study. What is new is that he openly questions whether Transylvania and Szeklerland belong to Romania, even if he chooses the sophisticated – and formally correct – statement that these are not Romanian administrative areas. In fact, none of the major Romanian regions are official administrative areas – Romania has 41 counties.

It is unclear what diplomatic aftermath Orban’s speech will have. Only Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala sharply criticized Orban after he said that the Czech Republic had “fallen down” towards Brussels. So far there have been no official statements on Orban’s speech in Romania, nor in Brussels or Washington. People seem to be tired of the Hungarian prime minister’s provocations, but at the same time the silence could also be a sign of how isolated Hungary has become internationally. Orban himself doesn’t want to leave any doubt as to where he stands and what to expect from him. In his speech he said: “We have no other choice. Even if we love Europe, even if it is ours – we still have to fight.”

Hank Peter

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