In a blistering speech at European People’s Party conference in Madrid, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban drew applause at the expense of Angela Merkel as he called for a new approach to the migrant crisis in Europe—one not buttressed by unrealistic idealism and politically correct bromides.
“We are in deep trouble”, Orban intoned. “This is an uncontrolled and unregulated process. We did not get authorisation from [our citizens] for millions to walk into our continent.” He accused left-leaning parties of “importing future leftist voters to Europe” while trying to “hide it behind humanism.” “The German, Hungarian or Austrian way of life is not a basic right of all people on earth,” he continued. “It is only a right for those people who have contributed to it.”
Orban is a genuinely unsavory character, who has taken advantage of the migrant crisis to give his government quasi-fascist police powers in Hungary. But he is also speaking eminently good sense when he points out that immigration and refugee rights cannot be as unlimited as the EU has promised by law. Orban’s good sense on that point has been making a lot of the bien pensants in the corridors of Brussels and Berlin uncomfortable—as well it should. What does it say about your policies when it takes a figure like Orban to finally acknowledge that the Emperor is naked?
European Commission President Donald Tusk, whose job is to be conciliatory, has always found Orban’s line, if not his tone, persuasive, and he tried to smooth the rough edges in his own speech. After offering a ritual intonation that, “we cannot give into populism and xenophobia”, he went on to declare that “We cannot pretend any longer that the great tide of migrants is something that we want and that we are conducting a well-thought out policy.[..] We have lost our ability to control our borders.”
But Angela Merkel was speaking as well (must have been one awkward green room), and she declared that, “For a rich European Union this is the right thing to do. We cannot simply leave these people to our neighbors.” The question now becomes, will Angela be able to continue to have her way on this, as she has on so much else in Europe recently? Or is Orbanism, in this respect, ascendant?