Yesterday Viktor Orbán held his regular Friday morning interview at Magyar Rádió, and later he delivered a speech at a gathering organized by the Association of Christian Intelligentsia, the Association of Hungarian Civic Cooperation, and the Batthyány Circle of Professors. All three are closely allied with Fidesz. The Association of Christian Intelligentsia in 2009 joined CÖF (Civil Összefogás Fórum), the group responsible for the peace marches. The current president of the Association of Hungarian Civic Cooperation is Zoltán Balog, minister of human resources. Earlier János Martonyi, the former foreign minister, filled the post. The pro-Fidesz professors’ association has been in existence since 1995. Its first president was József Pálinkás, minister of education in the first Orbán government. So, Viktor Orbán was very much at home.
The event was organized in response to a booklet that pro-Fidesz “intellectuals” and the supporting Catholic clergy who are involved with the Association of Christian Intelligentsia had written. The booklet, “Signs of the Times,” is, as far as I can ascertain, a set of guiding principles for the Hungarian right.
Because of the heavy emphasis on religion, specifically Catholicism, it is not surprising that Orbán’s speech was mostly about the relationship between state and church, specifically the close ties between Fidesz and the Catholic Church. He spent only a few sentences on the refugee issue, but it was that topic that was widely reported in Hungary and abroad. Although, following their example, I will start with this topic, I’m planning to return to the rest of the speech soon. The comments he made on the refugee issue at this gathering must be analyzed in conjunction with his longer rumination on the problem and its Hungarian solution on Hungarian state radio.
As far as Viktor Orbán is concerned, the refugee crisis is over. The Hungarian position is simple. No migrant, refugee or not, will ever enter Hungary not only because there is now a well-guarded fence but because, by the time the asylum seekers reach Turkey, their lives are no longer in danger. They are no longer refugees, and therefore Hungary has no obligation to accept them. Moreover, Brussels will not be able to send any refugees back to Hungary just because they were initially registered on Hungarian soil. The Hungarian position is that, since they entered the European Union in Greece, it should have been Greece that registered them. This train of thought is logical enough as long as one thinks in terms of individual nation states acting entirely independently. But EU membership means that countries have to act for the common good as well as in their own self-interest.
As for distributing bona fide refugees among member states, Hungary finds the whole procedure illegal, irrational, and unfair. Alluding to Germany, he claimed that “it is not correct to invite people into our country and then divvy them up among other nations.” But he proposed an even more dangerous idea. The bureaucrats in Brussels want to make this plan permanent and automatic, which is completely unacceptable. No one can force sovereign countries “to admit people whom they don’t want.” Such a move challenges the very foundation of a European Union built on nation states. He suggests that since there is, in his opinion, no acceptable EU solution to the problem, “each country should solve this problem itself, just as Hungary did.”
A decision that would mandate an automatic distribution of refugees among member states “might be a liberal [solution], but [it is] not a democratic solution.” EU politicians cannot ignore the will of the people. Neither the national parliaments nor the European Parliament voted for such a solution. “In this case, a crisis of democracy will break out in Europe,” which may lead to anarchy.
Orbán, completely ignoring the wars raging in the Middle East, makes the human traffickers and, for good measure, the human rights activists responsible for the refugee crisis. As I wrote earlier, without the help of locals it is almost impossible to move illegally across borders. This is especially true when it comes to crossing a body of water. So, blaming the traffickers for the flow of escapees is simply foolish. Even in 1956 there were “human traffickers,” some of whom were quite decent.
In the past Orbán often talked about human traffickers as the real source of the refugee crisis but what was new today was that he found another culprit: those activists who helped the asylum seekers on their way to Germany and beyond. “In the United States and in Western Europe there is a whole network of these activists, which includes György Soros, whose name is the hallmark of those who assist everything that makes the nation states weak and who support everything that changes the customary European lifestyle, from human conduct to immigration.” These activists, by helping the immigrants, unwittingly become part of the illegal international human trafficking network. Among the bureaucrats in Brussels there are many “activist types” who think that the present immigration will help create the kind of Europe they imagine as ideal. For him that kind of Europe is unacceptable. His ideal is a nineteenth-century nation state best characterized by his crude demand for “a Hungarian Hungary.”
One can move seamlessly from Orbán’s contrast between Soros’s cosmopolitan attitude and strong (Christian) nation states to the distinction between Jewish internationalism and local nationalism. Cosmopolitanism for Orbán means exactly what it used to mean during the Rákosi and Kádár periods. To understand what that word meant then, let me quote from the Idegen szavak és kifejezések szótára (Dictionary of foreign words and expressions) published in 1973: “cosmopolitanism is a bourgeois ideology that tries to discredit patriotism, national feeling, and national culture.” Jewishness and cosmopolitanism in Eastern Europe were seen as going hand in hand. Compare that with the definition of cosmopolitanism in Wikipedia: “Cosmopolitanism is the ideology that all human beings belong to a single community based on a shared morality.”Orbán is stuck in the Hungary of 1973.
With this, we can move back to Orbán’s speech delivered to the representatives of Fidesz-affiliated civic organizations, some of which are allied with the Catholic Church. As something of a footnote to his speech he told the audience about the seriousness of the refugee crisis and urged the writers and editors of “Signs of the Times” to include it among the topics to be discussed later at right-wing think tanks. He has been thinking a lot about the topic, but his thoughts haven’t quite jelled. In two weeks he hopes to have them ready in their final form for the next Fidesz Congress.
He is certain that “the European Union’s indecision, bungling or mistaken sizing up of the situation” is not the cause of the endless flow of refugees. After all, European great powers have the brain power, money, and surveillance organizations to know ahead of time about the migrant traffic. He is convinced that the activists in Brussels are intentionally bringing these migrants into Europe. They are not just coming on their own but are being transported. The European left wants to create a new political international world. This is being achieved through an emphasis on human rights, and “the right of escape, migration, movement … is considered to be part of human rights.” Viktor Orbán refuses to accept that view. I hate to think where such restrictions on movement could lead.