Hungary’s Anti-European Immigration Laws

von Gábor Halmai

Since Viktor Orbán came to power in 2010, Hungary has regularly violated the principles set forth in Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union. This states that “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.” The latest violation has been the Hungarian government’s shameful behavior in the ongoing refugee crisis. Thousands of people have been left to languish in fields and on the streets, others have been herded into squalid detention camps. Water cannons and teargas have been fired at refugees gathered at the razor-wire fence erected on the border with Serbia and Croatia, a fellow EU Member State. Viktor Orbán, who has styled himself as the defender of Europe’s “Christian civilization” against an Islamic invasion, has encouraged other eastern European governments to follow his example in violating EU norms.

Orbán’s alleged defense of Christianity from the “Muslim hordes” is a central point of reference in his rightwing populism. In the early 1990s, Fidesz was a liberal party with a militantly anti-clerical position. After the disappearance in the mid-90s of the Hungarian Democratic Forum, the largest party on the right, Fidesz realized that it stood a better chance as a conservative party, and adopted a positive stance towards religion. However, Fidesz never understood religion as a significant part of its identity. Even after it joined the center-right grouping in the European parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP), religion played a solely instrumental role in its political strategy.[1] Fidesz makes eclectic use of religious symbols, combining references to Christianity with pagan traditions. Paganism is interpreted within the framework of ethno-nationalism, which serves as a type of surrogate religion ...

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