EU criticism of Israel is pandering to Muslim voters, Hungarian PM says

Written by on May 21, 2021

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban used his support for Israel as a jumping-off point for his criticism of France and German dominance of the European Union, claiming they set policies to appeal to Muslim citizens in a statement released Friday.

Earlier this week, Hungary vetoed an EU Foreign Affairs Council statement on the conflict between Israel and Gaza, which Orban argued would “equate a state, Israel, with an organization on the EU sanctions list,” meaning the terrorist group Hamas.

Though the FAC did not make an official statement, because it did not have the necessary unanimity to do so, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell described the draft on earlier this week.

The statement would have said that the “priority is the immediate cessation of all violence and the implementation of a ceasefire” and that the “high number of civilian casualties…high number of children and women – this is unacceptable.”

In addition, Borrell said: “We condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups on Israeli territory. We fully support Israel’s right to [self] defense, but we have also considered and stated it has to be done in a proportionate matter, respecting international humanitarian law.”

Orban accused the “Franco-Germany axis” of privileging its “millions of Muslim citizens” over those of Central Europeans, in countries where there are few Muslims.

“We can also see that most western European countries have entered an era of a post-national and post-christian concept of life,” the Hungarian leader argued. “But it cannot be ignored that we still live our lives according to Judeo-christian values, a Judeo-christian culture and concept of life.”

As such, Orban said, Hungary could not support the statement on Israel.

Orban used the veto of the statement as a point of criticism of western European dominance of the EU.

“It is high time to finally acknowledge that Central European countries, which joined the Union later, are nevertheless equal members of the community of the European Union. We also have the right to stand up for our beliefs, our allies, and our own interests,” he said.

Orban also addressed a foreign policy speech by Armin Laschet, the candidate from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party the christian Democratic Union to replace her as chancellor.

In the address given Thursday night, Laschet said a “core Europe,” initially including France and Germany should be able to promote a more robust EU foreign policy.

Laschet has been supportive of Israel in recent public comments, voicing solidarity in a recent election debate. Still, he specifically called Hungary’s behavior a “core problem of European foreign policy,” two days after Hungary vetoed the statement on Israel.

“I think that we gradually have to move towards qualified majority voting in foreign policy,” Laschet stated.

Orban said that Laschet’s remarks contradict his stated support for pan-Europeanism.

“According to the treaties of the Union, full agreement is needed on important issues such as foreign policy. Hungary, therefore, acted in accordance with the basic treaty when it vetoed. To accuse Hungary of being non-European because it exercised its right set forth in the treaty, is in fact deeply non-European,” the Hungarian prime minister argued.

Orban is a frequent critic of western Europe’s dominant role in the EU and has called to strengthen the Visegrad Group, which includes Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Within the EU, critics have accused Orban’s government of rule-of-law violations, as he has consolidated his power via constitutional reforms and changes of electoral laws since 2012.

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