Viktor Orbán Fights for Europe

Guillaume Durocher, American Renaissance, January 13, 2017

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Could a “Budapest Consensus” be in the making?

On the European continent today, one man stands out as a true statesman: the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán. He and his government have spoken out boldly on the threat to European identity posed by African and Islamic immigration. They have done so in the framework of a wider critique of individualism and internationalism, and have stressed the need to ensure the continued autonomy and cohesion of European nations.

One could accuse Mr. Orbán of opportunism. To an extent, he is merely appealing to a Hungarian electorate that has retained healthy instincts. But Mr. Orbán’s government has consistently voiced its commonsense but controversial views in foreign and hostile settings. Like Donald Trump in America, Mr. Orbán has taken considerable risks by violating liberal orthodoxies.

Viktor Orbán

Incidentally, Mr. Orbán was one of the few European leaders to support Mr. Trump for president, saying that his election would lead to “a better world.” Mr. Orbán can presumably look forward to seeing his position bolstered by a Trump administration.

For Mr. Orbán, patriotism means defending not only his own country, but also the wider family of European nations. In a major speech commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, Mr. Orbán argued that Hungarians were often at the vanguard of European history. Just as they had allowed East Germans to escape communism by opening the Iron Curtain in 1989, so in 2015, “We were the ones who had to close the border to stop the flood of immigration from the South.” He added: “We have continued to do our duty, even while we have been attacked from behind, by those we have in fact been protecting. . . . Europe can always count on us.”

Mr. Orbán went further, adding: “We must not give ground to terrorists who declare war on the Western world, nor to profit-seekers who send here people who are searching for a better life in Europe, nor to naive souls who have no idea into what extreme peril they are pushing Europe and themselves.” And finally he concluded that Hungary “chose [to have] its own children instead of immigrants, created work instead of speculation and benefits, achieved self-sufficiency instead of debt slavery, and chose border protection instead of raising its hands in surrender.”

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Last September the Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, János Lázár explained that “the Government’s standpoint is clear: Preserving Hungary’s demographic unity is a prerequisite for long-term survival,” adding that “it is historical experience that if the demographic balance within the Carpathian Basin changes then that can happen only to the detriment of the Hungarians.”

Something of the flavor of the current regime is reflected in the fact that Hungary has a State Secretary for Nation Policy, a post all European nations should have. The current secretary, Árpád Potápi, affirms that “the potential resettlement of migrants is a threat to every Hungarian and non-Hungarian citizen in the Carpathian Basin,” and argues that the European Union’s main purpose should be to “defend the European identity.”

Hungarians often point out that as a nation of 10 million people, they are a small minority in Europe (and we might add that people of European descent are a small minority in the global population). Why shouldn’t Hungarians be protected like any other vulnerable minority or endangered species? Mr. Orbán has been clear in pointing out that Islam is only a part of the current crisis. “The real threat is from the heart of Africa,” he says.

The peoples of the entire Danube basin tend to understand the dangers of multiculturalism and of the importance of demographic unity. The region has a long history of persecution by the Turks, including widespread torture and slavery, and of more recent ethnic civil wars that grew out of the failure of multicultural Yugoslavia. Diversity and migration have been constant sources of conflict. There is friction between Hungarian minorities and host populations in Slovakia and Romania. The uneasy mix of Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo, along with the perpetual failure to integrate the universally-loathed Gypsies, are constant reminders of the dangers of diversity.

Community first

Mr. Orbán’s critique of Afro-Islamic immigration is part of his argument for the primacy of community over the individual. He points out that if pleasure-seekers refuse to have children, the community on which they depend will die. Mr. Orbán affirms the value of concentric circles of kinship: “My primary responsibility is to those who are closest to me: my family, my friends, my religious community, and my nation.” This is a clear rejection of universal solidarity.

Mr. Orbán sees no opposition between national and European identity, calling for cooperation to preserve a common identity of shared blood and civilization. He has even called for a joint European military force: “A European army must protect the continent from two sides, from the East and from the South, in terms of protecting against terrorism and migration.”

For understandable reasons, nationalism in Central Europe has often been associated with Russophobia. The Hungarians however, along with the Czechs, have consistently advocated balanced relations with the Russians, whom they would recognize as full and crucial members of the European family.

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Overwhelming majorities of Hungarians support Mr. Orban’s opposition to immigration. In a recent referendum, 98.3 percent of voters chose to ratify opposition to the EU’s plan to impose Afro-Islamic settlers. Turnout was low at 43.9 percent, but probably reflected Hungarians’ boredom with repeated voting. In response to the near-unanimous result, the Hungarian government is proposing a constitutional amendment that would “declare that the protection of our self-identity . . . is the fundamental duty of the state.”

Europe is turning nationalist

Hungarians are spearheading the movement for European awakening. As the American journalist Lothrop Stoddard observed long ago, the Hungarians are an instinctively proud people: “I never saw a Magyar with an inferiority complex.”[1] Patriotism is spreading beyond Hungary, in part because Mr. Orbán’s views have been vindicated. Angela Merkel’s decision to open Europe to Afro-Islamic settlers has meant crime, rape, and massive financial burdens on host cities and towns. Europeans are increasingly horrified by their replacement by Third-Worlders. The Muslim population is growing rapidly in Western Europe today and Europeans have had a foretaste of their children’s lives if they ever live under an Afro-Islamic majority.

In the face of popular discontent, even mainstream European governments have come to recognize that the flow of migrants must be stopped. Walls to keep out invaders have gone up from Austria to Greece, and the EU has even formed a small joint border guard to help secure the Greco-Turkish border.

What has become known as the Visegrád group—Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia—is a strong voice for immigration control. Czech President Milos Zeman has asserted that there is a “strong connection” between Islamic migrants and terrorism, and calls for the “deportation of all economic migrants.” Slovakia’s prime minister Robert Fico says, “Multiculturalism is a fiction. Islam has no place in Slovakia.” When Angela Merkel asked the Poles to take in 7,000 settlers, Prime Minister Beata Szydło’s reply was clear: “I say very clearly that I see no possibility at this time of immigrants coming to Poland.” Like the Hungarian government, Poland’s newly elected conservative-populists want to increase the birth rate.

Mr. Orbán’s message resonates with Western Europeans, with polls consistently finding that majorities in most countries want less immigration. After a recent poll of 12,000 people in 12 European countries, BuzzFeed could only splutter in a headline: “Near Half the Adults in Britain and Europe Hold Extremist Views.” When will the media recognize that those who promote open borders are “extremists”?

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In the face of renewed nationalism, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, admits that “we must stop talking about a United States of Europe.” The ruling establishments are struggling to maintain power in the face of insurgent populism and the rise of alternative media on the internet.

The liberal-internationalist menace

Mr. Orbán’s plans for Europe have not gone unopposed. In an op-ed for the German newspaper Die Welt, George Soros demanded that Europe spend 30 billion Euros welcoming millions of migrants. The billionaire financial speculator argued that this is a worthwhile investment because these largely unskilled and low-IQ migrants will allegedly help pay for aging and childless Europeans’ pensions.

In fact, Afro-Islamic migrants and their descendants have consistently consumed more welfare and paid less in taxes than the average European. Moreover, in the age of automation, when even leading German companies such as Volkswagen and Airbus are cutting jobs by the thousands, there is hardly any demand for low-skilled labor.

Jacques Attali, a French economist who has advised both Francois Mitterand and Nicolas Sarkozy, also argues against Mr. Orbán. “These people [asylum seekers] are going to make Europe the world’s leading power. . . . Their arrival is a wonderful opportunity because this will transform European demography.” As he recently explained on French television, “I am for Hungary’s expulsion from the EU; a country which violates the rules of democracy must be kept aside. . . . Europe needs migrants for demographic reasons. We miss out on considerable wealth by rejecting them.” Before meeting Mr. Orbán at a European summit, EU Commission President Juncker once joked, “The dictator is coming.”

So far, Hungary has held firm. Just this week, Szilard Nemeth, the vice president Mr. Orbán’s Fidesz party, announced Hungary’s plan to “sweep out” non-governmental organizations linked to Mr. Soros, which “serve global capitalists and back political correctness over national governments.”

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EU membership seems to have protected more than hindered Mr. Orbán. Western leaders have hesitated to demonize and isolate a “member of the club” whom they have to meet with often. Mr. Orbán has not yet received the intense hostility directed at, for example, Serbian President Slobodan Milošević in the 1990s or Vladimir Putin today.

However, Hungary’s dependence on EU money makes it vulnerable. In 2015, EU transfers amounted to €4.6 billion or 4.4 percent of GDP. While he was still prime minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi threatened to veto the European budget unless Hungary and other Central European countries accepted their “fair share” of Afro-Islamic settlers. In 2012, the European Commission threatened to fine Hungary because of Mr. Orbán’s efforts to bring the Central Bank of Hungary under political control. So far the Visegrád countries have held their ground, but financial pressure remains a serious threat.

“Orbanomics starts to produce results”

Mr. Orbán’s greatest advantage is that he has the backing of the Hungarian people, who support his economic policies as well as his immigration policy. Reuters recently wrote: “‘Orbanomics’—Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s controversial form of shock therapy—is paying off. The sharp economic contraction of 2012 has turned into a solid expansion, the budget deficit is under control and Hungary is regaining its investment grade credit ratings.”

“Orbánomics” has mostly meant patriotic and localist policies, such as taxing banks and large corporations, redenominating private foreign debt into the local currency, and a flat personal income tax. Emigration from Hungary is low by Central European standards.

Economic issues are important in a country where low wages and a difficult transition from Communism left many people behind. Mr. Orbán hopes that improving circumstances will raise a catastrophically low birth rate. Total fertility has increased from 1.25 in 2003 to 1.44—a not-insignificant increase, but not nearly enough.

Towards a “Budapest consensus”

Mr. Orbán is certainly not perfect. In 2014, the Hungarian government arrested identitarian activist Richard Spencer and deported him from Budapest. Hungary has also banned so-called “hate speech” and historical revisionism. During the migrant crisis, Mr. Orbán allowed migrants already in his country to go on to Western Europe.

Like many European countries, Hungary sells residence permits in exchange for an investment–in Hungary’s case €300,000. There were only 3,649 such sales in 2013 but the point remains: Even patriotic governments may sacrifice ethnic principles for money, especially in the case of economically attractive immigrants.

Nevertheless, Mr. Orbán is conscious of embodying a European move away from leftism. As he recently told the Daily Telegraph: “on a philosophical-ideological level our feeling is that we are living in a ‘liberal non-democracy’ system in the Western world, and it’s over. That ideology which created its own language of political correctness—created a grey, uniform approach to all the questions—now it is over.”

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Mr. Orbán added: “So we are the good Europeans, and we defend Europe, not just at the levels of values, but at the levels of reality when we defend . . . borders.” Mr. Orbán and other leaders show that openly patriotic governments are popular. People to tend to love their leader especially if, like a tribal chieftain, he clearly puts their interests first. The “Berlin consensus” imposed by Angela Merkel is unraveling: We have Putin and Visegrád in the East, Brexit in the North, and Trump in the West. A shift in Europe towards a “Budapest consensus” seems all but inevitable.

[1] Lothrop Stoddard, Into the Darkness: Nazi Germany Today (New York: Duel, Sloan & Pearce, 1940: http://www.resist.com/LothropStoddard/Stoddard-IntoTheDarkness-GermanyToday.pdf

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Guillaume Durocher
Mr. Durocher is a European historian and political writer.
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