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Orban’s remark on “Sovietization” of EU draws sharp rebuke

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Budapest, Hungary – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has come under fire across the bloc for his recent tirade against the European Parliament and what he called the “Sovietization” of the EU.

Hungary’s Orban claims “Sovietization” of the EU underway

In a speech on Saturday marking the 30-year anniversary of the departure of Soviet troops from Hungary, Orban said national parliaments of EU member states should be allowed to suspend the bloc’s legislative process. PM Orban called to disempower the European Parliament and allow national legislatures to send instead their own representatives.

The Hungarian Premier also declared he hoped the newly launched Conference on the Future of Europe should be an opportunity to put an end to the “Sovietization” of the EU, and called for the mention of an “ever closer union” to be scrapped from EU treaties – a key clause that appears in the preamble and article 1 of the Treaty of the European Union.

“We want a democracy of democracies based on European nations,” he said in his speech. “We are nationally based democrats against empire builders,” he added, calling the European Parliament “a dead end [which] only represents its own party, ideological and institutional interests.”

His comments, aimed at some of the very foundations of the EU’s institutional and legal architecture, faced a sharp rebuke from top EU officials.

“Only those who do not like democracy think of dismantling parliaments,” David Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter.

“All the way to a Putinesque dictatorship”

Liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt, an outspoken critic of the Hungarian PM, pointed to “a pattern [that] leads all the way to a Putinesque dictatorship.”

“Viktor Orban wants to tie the hands of the European Parliament, like he already did with the Hungarian one,” he tweeted.

Viktor Orban has regularly used the EU Parliament as one of its favored targets to denounce the wrongs and shortcomings – as he sees them – of the European Union, frequently clashing with MEPs. In 2018, the EU’s legislative assembly triggered the so-called “Article 7” procedure against Hungary over increasing concerns on the rule of law, democratic backsliding and authoritarian tendencies.

Only two weeks ago, MEPs voted by an overwhelming majority to sue the European Commission over its failure to uphold the rule of law and inaction in implementing a new mechanism – widely seen as concerning Hungary and Poland in particular – that makes access to EU funds conditional on member states’ respect of democratic norms and values.

Once a member of and partly protected by the European Parliament’s largest grouping, MEPs from Orban’s Fidesz party quit the EPP last March following years of tensions and days after a vote that paved the way for its suspension or exclusion from the centre-right parliamentary alliance.

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