Bilateral disagreement after Orbán’s speech in Romania

07.22.2023 22:22 (act. 07.22.2023 22:30)

Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Orbán with Chancellor Nehammer ©APA/BKA (archive image of EU-CELAC summit/07/17/2023)

Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán caused bilateral discontent on Saturday with a speech at the 32nd Summer University in Băile Tușnad (Hungarian: Tusnádfürdö) in Transylvania, Romania. For example, Orbán mocked Romania’s government and political system in front of representatives of the Hungarian minority. Orbán was later accused by the Romanian side of behaving “like an extremist leader and not like a head of state”.

In the first part of his traditional speech at the summer academy organized by his FIDESZ party in Băile Tușnad (Bad Tuschnad), Orbán unexpectedly touched the Romanian political scene: he assumed his own mandate. But it might work “for Romania maybe for the twentieth time,” Orbán said.

Orbán also criticized the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They recommended to him in writing what he “should not talk about” in his speech, such as national symbols and collective minority rights. He was also asked not to mention Szeklerland in Transylvania, which is predominantly inhabited by Hungarian-speaking people, Orbán said. However, he “never claimed that Transylvania and Szeklerland are Romanian areas”, said Hungary’s head of government. But minority rights would exist and would also belong to those of Hungarian origin in Transylvania. About one and a half million members of the Hungarian ethnic group live in Romania. Romanian nationalists tried to disrupt Orbán’s speech, including with the message “Transylvania is Romanian soil forever”.

From Bucharest, spokesman for the Liberals (PNL) co-governor, Ionut Stroe, accused the right-wing populist Hungarian head of government of “satirifying the Romanian state” and behaving “as an extremist leader, not as a state leader”.

Romania would like to have good neighborly relations with Hungary, but “not an agitator who exposes his crazy ideas every year in Băile Tuşnad”, said the spokesman for the minority liberal partner in the grand coalition in an initial reaction. Official statements from the Foreign Ministry or the Bucharest government on Orbán’s remarks were still pending on Saturday, but the speech is likely to herald a new low point in bilateral relations. Orbán had also pledged support to Romania for joining the Schengen area, which Austria was responsible for blocking. His country will assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union next year and its mission is to get Romania to join Schengen.

Orbán’s speech also focused on the “weakness of the EU”, the “strengthening of China” and an “imbalance in the world”. Hungary’s head of government, who is controversial in the EU, praised China’s development as a new world power. China has caught up and even surpassed the United States. “We see that American dominance is continually being weakened.” Because of China, the balance of the world has been upset. This awakened “the old fears of the western world”. There are no constant winners and losers in world politics.

Orban spoke of a “great debate” between the EU and Hungary on “population exchange through migration” and the LGBTQ lobby. Migration and gender cannot be postponed liberally, said the prime minister. The European Union and Europe are “tormented by anguish” and feel “surrounded” because they are surrounded by seven billion people.

Russia was cut off from the European economy. But Moscow cannot be isolated from the rest of the world. At the same time, Europe lost competitiveness again as energy prices doubled compared to other parts of the world. According to Orban, a large number of Western companies are still present in Russia.

The Hungarian Prime Minister also spoke about economic targets, increasing the rate of employment and production and expressed his hope that the summer university in 2024 will already be able to talk about a stable Hungarian economy.