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The Czech government should condemn Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán’s remarks comparing the European integration project to Adolf Hitler’s attempt to take over the world

What is the context or why is Orbán doing this? Viktor Orbán is a long-standing critic of closer European integration. Instead, his populist policies are driven by nationalist themes and he often falsely disguises his isolationism by protecting national sovereignty or traditional values. A strong, united and interacting Europe is not in the interests of any authoritarian. Expressions of rapprochement are thus being attacked, while the pro-government media empire is doing everything it can to ensure that attacks on European institutions or the liberal West gain public sympathy in Hungarian society. The official communication of Viktor Orbán’s government is a showcase of hate-fuelled victimisation. It often takes Russian narratives to task, while faith and patriotism become its hostages. He made this remark in his speech on Friday in Veszprém, which is bidding to become the European Capital of Culture.

Why is the issue topical now? Fabricating an external enemy in order to consolidate power is an increasingly tempting strategy for Fidesz to get a perpetual excuse when the government’s opportunistic strategy fails. Whether in the field of diplomacy or economics, the alleged culprits are already pre-defined. The tactic thus simultaneously acts as a universal insurance policy and a tool to discredit traditional opponents of the regime. Restrictions on fundamental freedoms, corruption scandals and non-transparent public finances, anti-Allied foreign policy orientations or (not only) economic profiteering. These are just some of the reasons that motivate the EU and the US to make almost regular reservations to Budapest. The growing tension between Viktor Orbán and the liberal current of Western democracies is also escalated by the verbal attacks of Hungarian government leaders against the “foreign interference” of Orbán’s designated enemies. The latter, in general, always have one particular feature in common – they are concerned about the state of democracy in Hungary and are increasingly vocal in their opposition to the proliferating scandals of the government. In recent months, it has almost always been Brussels or Washington. Looking at the nature of the statement under discussion, it is worth noting that Orbán’s latest actions have certainly received considerable applause among the ranks of the far-right radicals. Take, for example, the eternal symbolism referring to the return of ‘Greater Hungary’, the legislation discriminating against the LGBTIQ+ community, the dismissal of opposition left-wing journalists, or perhaps quite specifically the pardon granted to a radical nationalist who was sentenced to many years in prison as a terrorist for violent attacks against previous groups.

Why is the topic important for the Czech Republic and how should the government proceed? The Czech government should stand up in defence of European integration to the extent that a united Union is more than needed in the current challenging times. In opposition to efforts to distance itself, the Czech government should defend the Czech Republic’s transatlantic alliances. The Czech government should therefore condemn provocative statements. However, it should also communicate the hidden causes of these statements and warn against the destabilising influences of the Hungarian Prime Minister. The CPAC international conservative conference in Budapest, bringing together all sorts of European and American nationalists and Donald Trump supporters, which has become a showcase for nationalist populism, gives us a clue about the recipients of Viktor Orbán’s anti-integration statements. In the face of Hungary’s continued isolation, Orbán is finding new allies among conservative radicals and defeated populists. With their support, he is then extending his vision into the many dark corners of European politics, where he is taking advantage of the current crisis to find fertile ground. The democratic, pro-European governments of Central Europe should bear in mind who occupied the front row in Budapest when Orbán spoke.