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Oppressed by liberals? Hungary offers a welcome

February 10, 2017

After pledging "open conflict" with the EU on refugees, the right-wing prime minister jokingly welcomed West European refugees. He also accused billionaire George Soros of undermining Hungary's democracy.

Viktor Orban peaks during his state-of-the-nation address in Budapest, Hungary
Image: Reuters/L. Balogh

Hungary's populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban welcomed Western Europeans who felt persecuted by liberal agendas to seek asylum in his country.

"Naturally, we will take in the real refugees," Orban said at his annual state of the union address. "The panicked German, Dutch, French and Italian politicians and journalists, Christians forced to leave their countries will find here the Europe they lost at home."

The audience received the comments with laughter and loud applause

The right-wing conservative politician lashed out against left-wing politics, the liberal media and international human rights organizations.

Together they had created a "worldwide network" to deliver "hundreds of thousands of migrants" into Europe. "The former government of the US and the governments in Brussels and Berlin have ensured that immigrants cannot be stopped, but we have done so," Orban told followers.

George Soros
Orban accused Hungarian-born US billionaire philanthropist George Soros of undermining Hungary's democracyImage: picture-alliance/Wiktor Dabkow

Earlier on Friday, Budapest said all of its migrants would be sent to detention centers while their asylum applications were pending, with Orban admitting that put his country in "open conflict" with the European Union.

Attack on George Soros

In the same state of the union address, Orban claimed prominent billionaire financier George Soros and groups backed by him wanted to secretly influence the country's politics.

Orban said groups receiving funding from Hungarian-born Soros needed to be made transparent and identifiable.

"Large-bodied predators are swimming here in the waters. This is the trans-border empire of George Soros, with tons of money and international heavy artillery," said Orban, who received a Soros-funded scholarship as Hungary was transitioning from communism to democracy in the late 1980s.

"It is causing trouble ... that they are trying secretly and with foreign money to influence Hungarian politics," Orban said.

He did not cite evidence backing his claims, and did not identify the groups he mentioned.

In an email to The Associated Press, a Soros representative said they were "proud to support Hungarians who insist on having a voice in their democracy."

"The Open Society Foundations for over 30 years have supported civil society groups in Hungary who are addressing profound problems in education, health care, media freedom and corruption," said Laura Silber, the organization's chief communications officer.

"Any attacks on this work and those groups are solely an attempt to deflect attention from government inability to address these issues."

The managing director of Budapest think tank Political Capital said Orban's speech reflected a trend towards nationalist, populist neo-right politics in the country. Orban, who returned to power in 2010, has frequently clashed with the EU on refugee policy and will seek another four-year term in April 2018.

aw/gsw (AP, dpa, EFE)

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