Orban Rallies Europe’s ‘Illiberal’ Forces for 2019 Elections

(Bloomberg) -- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, emboldened by the surge of right-wing parties across Europe, called for a united front by “illiberal” forces to win control in next year’s European Parliament elections.

Having solidified his rule at home in the past eight years and reelected in April, Orban set his sights on wider dominance for his version of "Christian democracy," that he sees opposed with multiculturalism and liberal values.

"There’s a general shift toward the right in the whole of Europe," Orban told an ethnic Hungarian audience in Baile Tusnad, Romania, on Saturday, citing votes in Italy and Austria. "We must focus all our attention on the European elections of 2019. It’s high time the European elections were about one serious common theme, immigration."

The Hungarian premier renewed his attack on the European Commission after similar remarks in a radio interview on Friday, where he dismissed the bloc’s executive as a lame duck. He said the commission’s concerns about Hungary’s migration and non-government organization policies will soon cease to be relevant as its mandate expires.

‘New Era’

His remarks in Romania follow a string of key pronouncements Orban has made at the event as he has tightened his grip on Hungary. At the same venue in 2014, he proclaimed the end of liberal democracy in Hungary, and two years later he became the first premier in the EU to endorse Donald Trump for U.S. president.

Since those announcements, Orban has brought more of Hungary’s institutions, media and companies under his sway and has seen electoral gains across the EU by populist parties with affinities for his anti-immigrant stance.

Last month, Hungary’s parliament passed a law that imposes jail terms of up to a year for anyone helping immigrants enter the landlocked country of almost 10 million people. Legislators also passed a constitutional amendment removing the Supreme Court’s oversight over public administration courts, which critics say is a further step at extending Orban’s influence over the judiciary.

The second half of 2018 will bring further major changes that will usher in a whole new cultural "era" in Hungary, Orban said in his speech, without giving details. He also reiterated that the EU should tweak what he called the "primitive" sanctions regime against Russia. That would allow the Baltics and Poland to defend their interests but let Hungary and others maintain closer ties with Moscow, he said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.