Hungary. Prior to the April parliamentary elections, the
authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his party
Fidesz reinforced the nationalist and anti-immigrant
rhetoric. In the EU, he received harsh criticism when he
called for a global fight against migration. The Foreign
Minister of Luxembourg said that Orbán's views fit a
dictator, which made the Hungarian Foreign Minister to label
the Luxembourg colleagues as idiots.
At a Budapest election in April in front of tens of
thousands of sympathizers, Orbán attacked international NGOs
and George Soros, the Hungarian-born American and Jewish
billionaire. In Hungary, Soros was accused of having a
secret plan for mass migration to Europe and Hungary. Soro's
foundations provided financial support to organizations that
worked with human rights, migration and Roma education and
more. In media, Fidesz ran an anti-Soros campaign that was
criticized by critics as anti-Semitic.
Just before the election, the UN Commission on Human
Rights expressed concern about the amount of hate crimes in
the country and the hate speech that appeared in debate and
social media, especially against Roma, Muslims and refugees.
As known on
Digopaul.com, Hungary refused to participate in the EU redistribution
of refugees and had not received any asylum seekers of the
quota allocated to it. In the election campaign, Fidesz
painted immigrants, the EU and Soros as enemies who were
said to threaten the Hungarian nation. The opposition saw it
as a way to divert attention from the dissatisfaction with
corruption, health care deficiencies and low wages. But the
opposition was weakened by fragmentation and could not
gather to seriously challenge Orbán's party.
Fidesz and the Alliance Party Christian Democrats
therefore won what Orbán described as a historic victory
with 49% of the vote. It increased the majority alliance in
Parliament to 133 out of 199 seats. Two came the right-wing
party Jobbik with 19% and 26 seats. For the left opposition,
the election was a loss and disappointment.
According to OSCE election monitoring, the election
campaign was characterized by threatening and xenophobic
rhetoric, with the media largely partying for the ruling
party and where its large campaign contribution put the
opposition in total disadvantage.
After the election, Fidesz announced major interventions
against NGOs working for refugee rights. The party worked on
a bill that would allow such organizations to be banned.
The election was followed by protests in Budapest against
Orbán and against the electoral system. Tens of thousands of
people demonstrated that the media was under government
control and had contributed to Fidesz's election victory.
In May, Orbán was re-elected as Prime Minister. In his
installation speech, he attacked the EU's migration policy,
explaining that the era of liberal democracy was over. It
would be replaced by a Christian democracy that would give
the people freedom and security, Orbán argued.
George Soro's foundations Open Society Foundations
decided in May to close their office in Budapest and leave
Hungary during the year. The leader of the organization said
that the Hungarian government degraded and slandered the
Open Society and pushed civil society to gain political
success. According to the Open Society, this has been done
through methods that are unparalleled in EU history.
In late May, the government announced that the so-called
Stop Soros Act would be introduced. With threats of
imprisonment, individuals and groups would be banned from
helping so-called illegal migrants to stay in Hungary. The
Interior Minister described it as an action plan to defend
Hungary. In addition, several existing laws were tightened,
for example, organizations could be banned if they were
considered a security threat due to immigration support. The
Constitution introduced a supplement that a foreign
population cannot settle in Hungary. Parliament voted in
favor of the proposals by a large majority.
The UN Head of Human Rights described the Hungarian
Parliament's decision as clearly xenophobic and contrary to
European and international human rights norms and values. He
said that the government is fueling hatred for political
gain. A 25 percent tax was also imposed on organizations
working for immigration in Hungary. According to the
Ministry of Finance, the intention was that the law would
counteract organized immigration. The first to be affected
by the law was the Soros-supported Central European
University (CEU), which had a training program for asylum
seekers and refugees. The program was closed when the tax
requirement came into force in August.
During the summer it became clear that Hungary intended
to follow the US example and withdraw from the UN Global
Migration Pact and not ratify it. According to the
government, the pact went against Hungary's security
interests and was also a threat to the world as it was said
to inspire millions of people to migration.
In August, Orbán met his close friend, Italian Interior
Minister Matteo Salvini, in Milan. Salvini emphasized that
Hungary proved that migration could be stopped, and both
leaders explained that a historic turning point was imminent
The Hungarian government was in feud with the EU
leadership on issues such as migration, the judiciary and
freedom of the press. In September, Orbán took part in a
heated debate in the European Parliament, in which the
rapporteur for Hungary accused the government of restricting
the freedom of the judiciary, the media and academics, as
well as the treatment of migrants and widespread corruption.
The reporter suggested an EU investigation, and Orbán
replied that his government will not give in to extortion.
He accused the European Parliament of condemning an entire
nation and of believing they know better than the Hungarians
themselves what they want. The European Parliament voted for
the first time for the EU to examine a Member State which it
considers violates the common values of the Union. The
so-called Article 7 procedure could in theory end with
sanctions such as lost voting rights.
In November, the Hungarian police decided to close a
corruption investigation into EU contributions concerning a
company that was partly owned by Orbán's son-in-law.
According to police, crime could not be substantiated. The
evidence came from the EU's anti-corruption authority OLAF,
and the chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on
Budgetary Control said that the matter intensified the
concern that the Hungarian judiciary could not defend itself
from political pressure.
Former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, convicted of
corruption, was given asylum in Hungary in November. He was
reported to have moved to Hungary in a Hungarian diplomatic
car after being sentenced to two years in prison in his home
country. Orbán defended the decision by Gruevski being his
colleague, who in 2015 helped Hungary defend its border by
helping to stop refugees on their way north. Orbán, who
otherwise did not have much to spare for asylum seekers,
argued that the trial against Gruevski was politically
The CEU funded by George Soros in December decided to
move the business from Budapest to Vienna. The decision came
after a year of fighting against the Hungarian government's
new education legislation, which is criticized by critics
for the purpose of removing the CEU. The European Commission
has previously brought Hungary before the European Court of
Justice because of the law. For decades, CEU has been a
gateway to the west for students from former communist
states in Europe, and the university has been ranked as the
best in both Hungary and Central Europe.