Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hit out on Friday at the European Commission’s unprecedented initiation of disciplinary proceedings against Poland, while welcoming Austria’s “Christian” and anti-immigration new right-wing government.
“An attack on Poland is an attack on all of central Europe,” the rightwing Orban, whose root-and-branch overhaul of state institutions since 2010 has also alarmed Brussels, told Hungarian public radio. He confirmed that Budapest would veto any suspension of Poland’s EU voting rights, saying it was “in Hungary’s national interest to be in solidarity with the Poles and to make clear that European sanctions cannot be imposed”.
In a major escalation against one of the EU’s biggest states, Brussels on Wednesday triggered article seven of the EU treaty over “systemic threats” to the independence of the Polish judiciary. This can eventually lead to the “nuclear option” of the suspension of a country’s voting rights within the bloc, a move that would, however, require unanimous support of all other EU members.
The row underlines growing east-west tensions within the EU, with former Soviet bloc states like Poland and Hungary refusing to toe the Brussels line on several thorny issues including judicial and media independence as well as immigration.
Orban also welcomed Austria’s new governing coalition of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives with the far right Freedom Party, which took office this week two months after elections that saw voters move to the right. “In Austria a conservative government based on Christian values (and) rejecting immigration has come to power. The political situation in Germany has also changed when it comes to immigration,” he said.
Orban added that he expects Austria to back on the issue of immigration the Visegrad group of eastern and central European countries, whose relations with Brussels are frayed. Orban fiercely opposes immigration, calling it the “Trojan Horse of terrorism” and saying that the mass arrival of Muslims poses a danger to Europe’s Christian and democratic traditions.