Viktor Orbán’s xenophobic anti-immigration rhetoric grows louder every day. His regular Friday interview on Magyar Rádió today was perhaps his harshest attack on outsiders. He spreads fear of those millions of Africans who will invade the European continent and destroy its civilization. This morning he stressed that although some prime ministers in the European Council think that “immigration is a good development and that it is useful for the European Union,” he is not one of them.
But the fact is that, according to a survey published a few years ago by HSBC titled “World in 2050,” Europe’s shrinking population due to its low birthrate portends “a grim future” for continental Europe. The low reproduction rate of countries like Germany (1.3), Italy (1.4), Poland (1.3), Hungary (1.3), and Spain (1.4) “doom these countries to aging crises and population decline unless they open the floodgates to immigration.” The final warning of the study is that “not since the Black Death stalked Europe in the Middle Ages have we seen populations collapse like this.”
To this, Orbán’s answer is that his outstanding leadership will turn around the Hungarian demographic trend that has been with us for about thirty years. This is yet another of his pipe dreams.
Alessandra Venturini, deputy director of the Migration Policy Center and professor of economic policy at the University of Turin, shares the opinion of the authors of the HSBC study. A couple of days ago she reiterated that Europe “cannot do without immigration” although there is a “worrying myopia” in certain circles. She had a few strong words about the lack of solidarity within the Union and predicted that the failure to recognize the need for immigration will “cost everyone dearly.” She charged some of the politicians with “a total lack of political vision.”
In the European Union few countries have fertility rates that are considered acceptable. France and Ireland lead the way with 2.1, followed by the United Kingdom with 1.9 and Sweden with 1.91. Compare that with Hungary’s 1.34, Slovakia’s 1.34, Poland’s 1.3, or the Czech Republic’s 1.4. Interestingly, these are the very countries that are most adamant about rejecting any immigration.
Viktor Orbán, in his interview this morning, alluded to the fact that at the last summit, which he described as one of his toughest, there were prime ministers who, like the economists and demographers, urged joint action on a carefully planned immigration policy that would ensure a healthy economic development for the European Union. With Viktor Orbán in the lead, the former socialist countries torpedoed any action in this direction.
Orbán indicated that there were a few critical remarks and some bantering, but “we mustn’t be bothered by them.” Surely, no one would accuse Viktor Orbán of being sensitive to the fact that his xenophobia and barely veiled racism is not exactly comme il faut. He seems to be absolutely oblivious to the possibility that some of his fellow prime ministers might look down on him and consider his behavior unbecoming, boorish, or much worse. I also wonder whether during these meetings he can successfully hide his disdain of most of his colleagues. Because Orbán doesn’t think much of people who think that “foreign is beautiful, not problematic, not dangerous” when clearly the opposite is true. He sees the danger while others do not.
Orbán used an interesting phrase during this morning’s interview. In discussing the quota system the European Commission wanted to “foist” on the member states, he remarked that there were prime ministers who were willing “to let Brussels decide” because there is something wrong with their “vital instincts.” Perhaps their instincts are not as keen as his. Perhaps these prime ministers don’t defend the rights of their own people as vigorously as he does. His vital instincts work when he takes a firm stand. No mincing of words here: “It is I who decides whom I let into my house, into my country. I am the one who decides with whom I want to live. It will be decided here and not in the imperial center. We insist that we Hungarians will decide our own fate.”
By taking such firm stand, Hungarians are defending not only themselves and their country but the European Union as well. “Not for the first time,” he added. The reference is to the ungrateful Europe that made Hungary fight the Turkish invaders alone. And when the Turks triumphed, it heartlessly left Hungary to bleed to death and suffer under the Ottoman yoke for 150 years. Of course, this “fairy tale” has little to do with reality, but it sounds good and it fits well with the self-pitying tendencies of the Hungarian psyche.
How does Orbán see the refugee crisis? Although on occasion he makes fleeting remarks about “real” refugees, Orbán views the present situation as the beginning of a mass migration of long duration. Moreover, he downplays the number of refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria and overstates the magnitude of the African migration. His description of the situation in Africa is simplified to the point of gross distortion. “Africans, once they learn that in the European Union one can attain a reasonable standard of living without any skills, start going. Not 100,000 but a hundred million.” The European Union’s generosity is like “sending an invitation to them.” We have to tell them straight: “This is our home, you go back home.”
This is Viktor Orbán’s interpretation of one of the most serious refugee crises in the history of Europe. Shame on him.