Orban Calls For Hungarians To ‘Occupy Brussels’ In Upcoming Elections


(RFE/RL) — Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a nationalist who has held power in Hungary for the past 14 years, has issued a stinging rebuke of the European Union and called on his countrymen to help “occupy Brussels” in elections set for the bloc this summer.

In a speech during a national holiday to commemorate Hungary’s failed 1848 revolution against Habsburg rule, the right-wing populist, who has often clashed with the EU during his time in power, said Hungary had to choose between “Brussels and Hungarian freedom” in the vote.

“They start wars, destroy worlds, redraw countries’ borders and graze on everything like locusts,” Orban told the crowd from the steps of the National Museum.

“We Hungarians live differently and want to live differently.”

Orban and his Fidesz ruling party have been accused by critics at home and abroad of backsliding on democracy, threatening judicial independence, and of being hostile toward migrants and people from the LGBT community.

The Hungarian prime minister has talked openly about his plans to turn the country from a democracy into an “illiberal state,” and the government has taken control of much of Hungary’s print and broadcast media.

Budapest also has repeatedly used its veto power to thwart initiatives supported by the rest of the bloc such as refusing to send weapons to Ukraine to help it repel invading Russian forces and maintaining economic and diplomatic ties with Moscow during war, souring relations with Brussels dramatically as Hungary prepares to take over the EU’s rotating presidency on July 1.

With elections for the European parliament now less than three months away, Orban told the crowd, many of whom were brought in on buses from elsewhere in the country, 2024 will be a “turning point” for the right wing.

“Brussels is not the first empire that has set its eyes on Hungary,” said Orban, who last week traveled to the United States to meet with former President Donald Trump while avoiding any meetings with President Joe Biden or his administration.

“The peoples of Europe today are afraid that Brussels will take away their freedom…. If we want to preserve Hungary’s freedom and sovereignty, we have no choice: We have to occupy Brussels.”

Orban’s fiery anti-EU rhetoric came a day after U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman warned Budapest about its expanding relationship with Russia saying it raised “legitimate security concerns.”

Opposition politicians, speaking at other rallies, delivered messages that contrasted with those of Orban. Among the opposition politicians who addressed the crowds was businessman Peter Magyar, who has said he plans to launch a new party to challenge Fidesz.

“No matter what faults the European Union has, this is the club that we are a member of,” said Magyar, who was once close to Fidesz.

Magyar said there is a moral, political, and economic crisis in Hungary, and the majority of Hungarians “have lost confidence in the entire political elite.”

He listed examples of corruption in Hungary ranging from wasted EU funds to shortcomings in health-care, education, and child protection and said the current government can be defeated in an election.

“If Hungarian voters finally see a real, incorruptible, ‘nonblackmailable,’ honest, open, and free-from-extremism political force, more and more people will believe that there is hope for change, perhaps faster than many would think,” Magyar said.

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of late Russian opposition figure Aleksei Navalny, spoke in a video message at a Budapest rally sponsored by Mayor Gergely Karacsony and student associations. She described Orban as an accomplice of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Be brave,” Navalnaya said, repeating one of her husband’s central messages. She added that beyond Orban there are other Putin supporters in Europe.

Putin dared to start its full-scale invasion of Ukraine because he knew that he would get help from some backers in Europe, she said. Just as Putin does not represent all of Russia, Hungary cannot be equated with all that Orban represents, she said.


RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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