Hungary takes on Brussels and Sweden in diplomatic showdown
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has backed Brussels in the escalating fight between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Merkel told the media: “Jean-Claude Juncker has my full solidarity, and we will also make that clear in discussions with Hungary.”
Brussels has accused Hungary of disturbing “ludicrous conspiracy theories” after it launched a campaign featuring Juncker and billionaire financier George Soros.
The two critics of Hungary’s authoritarian government were accused of plotting to endanger national security.
Hungary’s campaign features the grinning faces of Juncker and the Hungarian-born philanthropist with the caption: “You have the right to know what Brussels is preparing for.”
It says the European Union plans to prevent member states from protecting their borders by enforcing refugee quotas and immigration rules.
Merkel refused to say whether Fidesz should be expelled from the largely centre-right European Peoples’ Party (EPP) ahead of May’s European parliamentary elections.
Fidesz and Merkel’s CDU are both members of the EPP. Juncker was the bloc’s candidate for the European Commission presidency in 2014’s European elections.
Margaritis Schinas, the European Commission’s spokesman, dismissed the Hungarian campaign as fiction.
“The Hungarian government campaign beggars belief,” he told the media. “It is shocking that such a ludicrous conspiracy theory has reached the mainstream to the extent it has. There is no conspiracy. Hungarians deserve facts, not fiction.”
A diplomatic row between Sweden and Hungary continues to simmer after a Swedish minister compared Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s bid to boost its birth rate with Nazi Germany.
Orban announced tax and loan benefits earlier this month to encourage Hungarian families to have more children.
The populist leader said the Central European country needed Hungarian children rather than migrants.
Sweden’s social affairs minister Annika Strandhall compared the policy to Germany in the 1930s.
“What is happening in Hungary is alarming. Now Orban wants more ‘genuine’ Hungarian children to be born,” she tweeted.
“This policy reeks of the ‘30s and as right-wing populists, they need to create smoke-screens for what this kind of politics does to the independence that women have been fighting for.”
Sweden and Hungary complained to each other’s ambassadors over the spat this week.
Hungary’s deputy prime minister, Zsolt Semjen, said Strandhall’s comments were an abhorrent example of political correctness.
Hungary’s ambassador was warned against making personal attacks.
The Swedish ambassador was told it was unacceptable to compare Hungary’s government to Nazi Germany over its efforts to help families.
The Hungarian fertility rate was 1.53 children per woman in 2016, the highest level for more than 20 years, according to Eurostat.
The EU average is 1.6.
Sweden’s rate was estimated at 1.85 in 2016, the lowest for a decade.
Very few migrants have tried to settle in Hungary. Picture credit: Wikimedia