Orban win in Hungary brings headaches for Brussels

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Hungary's strongman Viktor Orban. reuters

Brussels (AFP) – The leading political group in the European Parliament congratulated Hungary’s Viktor Orban on his reelection yesterday, but the anti-immigration populist’s victory looks set to prolong the fractious relationship between Brussels and Budapest.

The European Union has clashed repeatedly with Mr Orban’s government during his first two terms as premier over a number of issues including Hungary’s crackdown on foreign-funded universities and NGOs, its hardline stance on migrants and alleged misuse of funding from the bloc.

Mr Orban has been defiant in the face of EU criticism, and some observers say the fact his Fidesz party is part of the European People’s Party (EPP), the dominant force in the European Parliament, has given him cover in Brussels.

The EU has launched a battery of legal action against Mr Orban’s government, taking it to the bloc’s top court over a crackdown on education and foreign-backed civil society groups that critics say targets US billionaire George Soros.

The European Commission has also brought a case against Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic over their refusal to accept quotas for asylum seekers.

Left-leaning European Parliament groups condemned the fact that Mr Orban’s crushing win on Sunday came after a campaign in which his tough anti-immigration stance featured prominently.

German MEP Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann, of the Socialists and Democrats grouping, said Mr Orban had been “very successful with a campaign of fear against migrants”.

The left-wing Greens slammed the EPP for backing and congratulating Mr Orban when Hungary is facing legal action from the EU and the European Parliament is investigating whether Budapest is living up to its rule of law obligations.

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