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German MEP Says Orban's 'National-Populist' Approach Will Not Fix Societal Problems

MEP Manfred Weber, leader of the European People's Party in the European Parliament. (file photo)
MEP Manfred Weber, leader of the European People's Party in the European Parliament. (file photo)

The chairman of the European People's Party (EPP) -- the largest group in the European Parliament -- has sharply criticized the policies of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in an opinion piece published on December 27 by a German newspaper.

The dismantling of the rule of law, nationalism, or fomenting division are not effective tools to master societal challenges, conservative Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Manfred Weber of Germany wrote in Welt am Sonntag.

"Immense economic, social, and societal upheavals cannot be mastered with a national-populist political approach or a cultural war, as demanded by Hungary's Prime Minister Orban," Weber said.

The center-right EPP suspended suspended Orban's Fidesz party in November 2019 over concerns about backsliding on the rule of law in Hungary as well as attacks against the European Commission.

The suspension, which this year was extended indefinitely, means that Fidesz is no longer present at the grouping's meetings and its voting rights have been stripped.

Weber's essay was published a week after Orban equated the European Union to the regime of the Soviet Union in an interview with the newspaper.

"Anyone who equates the European Union with the authoritarian regime of the Soviet communists wants to destroy the Europe that was built by Helmut Kohl's generation of politicians," he added.

The EU is not a "milk cow" for handouts but a community with a shared fate and values, Weber said.

"The values are primarily about the dignity of the individual, regardless of whether you are in Europe's vibrant regions or in the refugee camp on Lesbos, regardless of whether you are Christian, Jewish, or Muslim."

Orban has often argued that migrants from the Middle East and Africa must be kept out to preserve the Christian character of Hungarian culture.

His government has argued that nation states should have control over their own borders and accused the European Union of trying to force it to accept mass immigration.

Orban's interview with the newspaper came three days after the EU's highest court ruled that Hungary broke the law by preventing some immigrants from seeking asylum and moving many to transit camps.

The European Commission -- the 27-member bloc's executive body -- launched legal proceedings against the asylum law issued by Orban's right-wing government in 2015 at the peak of a migrant crisis.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) largely ruled in favor of the commission, finding that Hungarian authorities failed to observe the procedures and required guarantees.

Hungary, along with Poland, is also under EU investigation for undermining the independence of the judiciary, media, and nongovernmental organizations.

For weeks the two countries' governments blocked the passage of a package that included coronavirus relief seen as vital for the EU's battered economies over a newly introduced clause that tied to funding to whether members uphold the rule of law.

EU leaders earlier this month struck a deal to unblock the funding and start implementing it.

With reporting by dpa and Welt am Sonntag
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