May 10, 2018 / 1:10 PM / 5 months ago

EU must give up 'nightmares' of United States of Europe - Hungarian PM

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - The European Union should give up its “delusional” idea of a United States of Europe, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Thursday in pledging to defend his nation’s Christian values and fight EU migrant settlement quotas.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses the Parliament for the first time since his reelection in Budapest, Hungary, May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Orban, a maverick anti-immigration nationalist, was elected to a third straight four-year term by a landslide last month and is now the longest-serving premier in the post-Communist history of the central European country.

In eight years in office, he has put Hungary back on a sound economic footing but his backsliding on democracy, including a takeover of independent media and crackdown on non-governmental groups he sees as promoting liberal, open-border values, have put him at odds with Western partners in the EU.

“The Union must function as an alliance of free nations and give up on its delusional nightmares of a United States of Europe,” Orban told parliament in his inaugural speech.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban reacts after taking the oath of office in the Parliament in Budapest, Hungary, May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

“The EU must return to the grounds of reality. As a first step, it must change its thinking about migration.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU executive, has jokingly referred to Orban as a “dictator” over what critics say are the premier’s autocratic leanings.

Marton Gyongyosi, co-chairman of the main opposition party Jobbik, said after Orban’s speech: “Hungary today is a country built on corruption, ruled and managed by oligarchs, a country which Hungarian youth leave in throngs.”

Orban has increased his control over the media and put allies in charge of once independent institutions. His hostility to accepting migrants - especially Muslims - into Hungary has put him in conflict with the Brussels-based EU, but proved popular in last month’s vote.

Orban has also built a class of loyal businessmen whose control of key industries has grown rapidly to fulfil a government goal of keeping them in Hungarian hands.

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He reiterated that his new government would build a “Christian democracy”. He promised to boost growth and competitiveness and reverse a decline in Hungary’s native population, while maintaining a tough line on immigration.

“We will oppose the mandatory migrant settlement quotas... and will fight for the protection of borders,” he said.

Orban also pronounced the era of liberal democracy to be over. “We have replaced a shipwrecked liberal democracy with a 21st-century Christian democracy, which guarantees people’s freedom, security,” Orban told parliament.

He outlined broad plans for the next 12 years, entailing rapid economic and social advancements under a conservative ideology, and said his foreign policy would depend in part on the influence of Germany, Russia and Turkey.

“Hungary must prioritise geopolitical considerations over ideological thinking. Hungary is and will remain a dedicated member of the Western alliance system. But that does not change the geographical constraints,” he said.

“To our west is the land of German iron chancellors, to our east is the world of Slavic soldier peoples, and to our south are massive crowds of Muslim people. Berlin, Moscow, Istanbul - Hungary exists in this space. We need to make calculations based on this.”

Reporting by Krisztina Than and Marton Dunai; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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