Orban Strikes Nationalist Tone in State of the Nation Address
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban voiced nationalist sentiments during his annual State of the Nation Address on Sunday, February 18th in Budapest.
Orban rallied the crowd with policy sentiments ranging from Hungarian nationalism to anti-immigration while inciting growing European East-West tensions. Orban’s speech coincides with a rising trend in Trumpism and prompts many questions about Hungary's future.
Orban began by recounting his party’s success. Fidesz, the Hungarian nationalist right party, has held power since its landslide victory in 2010. Orban claims responsibility for Hungary’s thriving economy, measured by 736,000 jobs, the curbing of inflation, average pay increases, tax reductions, and growth since the 2008 economic slump.
Orban also claimed credit for what he deems the nation's thriving culture. Citing improvements in infrastructure and what he considers to be elite Hungarian human capital, he said Hungarians are "better-trained, better-educated and more employable” than ever before.
To the Future
Orban said Hungary is “no longer financially beholden to anyone," while calling for a completely Hungarian-owned banking system and media.
He asked listeners to find jobs that will not only contribute to the Hungarian economy but support the Hungarian family. He also requested that citizens think carefully about key numbers of marriage and fertility rates.
“The magic number that scientists refer to as the fertility rate has risen from 1.23 to 1.49: it’s a promising start, but a long way from 2, which would provide for our long-term survival.”
Orban turned to the topic of immigration in the middle of his address. Since the 2015 migration crisis, Hungary has followed its own migration policy, rejecting EU migrant quotas and EU policies regarding the redistribution of immigrants. Orban has consistently dismissed Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros’ 7 point-plan to alleviate the refugee crisis in Europe.
Hungary's anti-immigrant posture is matched by Orban’s racially charged rhetoric. Making references to “Islamisation” and a growing African population within Hungary, the Prime Minister called Christianity the "last hope" and uniting force of Europe.
“Day by day their [countries that let in immigrants] cultural foundations are being transformed, the population raised in a Christian culture is declining, and the major cities are undergoing Islamisation."
Orban claimed that in the near future, “the cities of Europe will clearly have majority Muslim populations – and London will not be an outlier, but a pioneer.” He also claimed that there will be more young Africans than young Europeans by 2050. Such rhetoric, despite helping Orban appeal to some Hungarians, has drawn criticism from European nations.
Current Migration Policy and Background Information on the Migrant Crisis
In 2015 the number of migrants who arrived by land and sea to European nations jumped from 280,000 in 2014 to 1,800,000 in 2015. Primarily, these migrants are fleeing violence and poverty in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Albania, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Iran, and Ukraine.
Though Germany has received the most number of asylum seekers, Hungarian receives the most applications per population.
Hungary has taken an anti-immigrant posture — building a fence along the Serbian border limiting entrance of asylum seekers while adopting racially charged rhetoric.
In January 2018, Hungary appeared to have closed itself to nearly all asylum seekers. Currently, it allows two asylum seekers per day to cross into its transit zones along the Hungary-Serbia border. Asylum seekers waiting along the border report being afraid that Hungary will close the transit zone forever. The United Nations Human Rights Council reported approximately 4,000 new arrivals last month to the border. One in nine hope to stay in Serbia; the others see it as a path to the rest of Europe and hope to cross through Hungary or Croatia. The constriction of two asylum seekers per day is believed to be Orban’s strategy for boosting approval ratings before the election in April.
Tensions with EU
Apparently unafraid to stoke already-strained relations, Orban mentioned a loose coalition of nations that he says he respects — other members of the Visegrad Group (Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia), Croatia, Bavaria, and Austria. Orban praised the last three nations for their recent nationalist outlook and public alignment with Orthodox Christianity.
The EU deems Hungary and Poland to be illiberal democracies that have been subject to a resurgence in authoritarianism in the recent decade. Recently, the EU voted to impose the "nuclear option" on Poland, a move that could strip the country of its rights and benefits of EU membership. Hungary voted to back Poland against any such impeachment.
Inciting Populism Worldwide
The Italian elections on March 4th are a potential focal point for far-right parties such as Forza Italy, the League, and Brothers of Italy, to win a majority. Matteo Salvini, a nationalist contender in the race, idolizes Trump and Orban. Salvini called Orban “a role model because he builds walls in the heart of Europe to stop migrants, he defends borders, defends banks, defends the currency and stops immigration. If I have to choose a well-governed country, I choose that one."
Orban has given multiple nods to President Trump in the address, reinforcing what many see as a connection between the two leaders, whose anti-immigration policies and anti-Islamic rhetoric parallel one another. Orban’s pride in his border fence aligns with Trump’s desire for a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. In his address, Orban told listeners that Hungary too will “win" — a phrase borrowed from President Trump.
The Hungary election will take place in April. With Fidesz approval at an all-time high, Orban is expected to stay in power.