Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban accused the European Commission of "legalized hooliganism" after it launched legal action over an anti-LGBTQ law. Critics say the legislation conflates homosexuality with pedophilia.
The EU's legal action against Hungary over a new anti-LGBTQ law is a "shameful" move that amounts to "legalized hooliganism," Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.
The legislation bans the depiction of homosexuality and gender transition to those under the age of 18 and has sparked outrage across Europe.
Hungary's government dismisses the criticism, insisting that sex education is a matter of parental choice only.
Orban has dismissed the latest row with the EU as interference in Hungary's domestic affairs by "Brussels bureaucrats"
Orban, who faces an election next year, told Hungarian state radio that he would never let LGBTQ activists "march up and down" in schools promoting what he called sexual propaganda.
"Both family law and education are national competencies," he said. "It is shameful that the European Commission is asking us to amend our education law."
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told European lawmakers last week that the Hungarian legislation was "a disgrace."
On Thursday, the EU executive said it had written to the Hungarian government demanding answers. That is the first step in a lengthy legal process known as an infringement procedure, which are launched by the Commission when it believes a member state has broken EU law.
The case could end up in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
If the Hungarian government loses, it potentially faces billions of euros in fines.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte suggested last month that Hungary "has no business being in the European Union anymore" after the law had been approved.
The European Parliament also demanded action.
MEPs passed a motion earlier this month that called the law "another intentional and premeditated example of the gradual dismantling of fundamental rights in Hungary".
Poland is also facing a similar legal case over its 'LGBT-free' zones declared by some Polish towns and cities.
Orban, in power since 2010, has taken an increasingly tough line on social policies, such as LGBT rights and immigration.
He says he is defending traditional Christian values against left-wing liberalism.
The Hungarian prime minister canceled plans to attend Hungary's Euro 2020 game against Germany in Munich last month after it emerged that the city's mayor wanted to light up the Allianz Arena in rainbow colors.
But UEFA declined the German request.
Dieter Reiter, the mayor of Munich, wanted to repeat a gesture the city often makes during its annual Pride march
Last year, Hungarian lawmakers banned same-sex couples from adopting children and passed legislation that prevents people from legally changing their gender.
Hungary also does not recognize gay marriage.
Budapest has regularly clashed with Brussels over the past decade over LGBTQ rights, media freedom, the treatment of immigrants and the rule of law.
In December, the European Court of Justice ruled parts of the Hungarian government's asylum policy to be illegal.
Judges found that excessive red tape meant migrants wishing to claim asylum in Hungary "were in practice confronted with the virtual impossibility of making their applications."
jf/sms (AFP, EFE, Reuters)