Jul 26, 2022 - World

Hungary's Viktor Orbán under fire for "race-mixing" comments

Viktor Orban
Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is facing a fresh wave of criticism over a speech he delivered criticizing migration from outside of Europe and insisting Hungarians "do not want to become peoples of mixed-race."

Why it matters: The far-right leader has become a darling of the U.S. conservative movement and will be a featured speaker at next month's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, along with former President Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other Republican politicians.

Driving the news: Speaking Saturday at an annual event in Romania — where he famously declared in 2014 his intent to build an "illiberal state" within the European Union — Orbán asserted that migration "has split the West in two."

  • "One half is a world where European and non-European peoples live together. These countries are no longer nations: they are nothing more than a conglomeration of peoples," Orbán said.
  • Differentiating between a "world in which Europeans are mixed together" and one in which migrants are "occupying and flooding the West" from outside, Orbán stressed: "This is why we have always fought: we are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become peoples of mixed-race."

What they're saying: Orbán generated immediate backlash from Hungarian opposition figures, journalists and others who pointed out that he has employed similar types of nativist rhetoric for years.

  • The president of Hungary's largest Jewish organization requested a meeting with Orbán, saying his comments had "triggered serious concerns within the Jewish community."
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a Republican who has turned against his party over its loyalty to Trump, tweeted: "August 4, Dallas, CPAC is having this man as a speaker. Will potential candidates boycott CPAC? Or do they support pure race ideology?"
  • CPAC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The big picture: Orbán, who won a fourth consecutive term in a landslide election in April, has presided over significant democratic backsliding over the last decade by consolidating control over Hungary's judiciary, media and civil society.

  • His attacks on international liberalism and promotion of Christian nationalism — including through anti-LGBTQ laws and highly restrictive migration policies — have made him an icon in the eyes of conservative American leaders like Fox News' Tucker Carlson.
  • Despite Hungary being a member of NATO, Orbán has opposed sending weapons to Ukraine and derailed EU unanimity on sanctioning Russian energy.
  • "What we like about him is that he’s actually standing up for the freedom of his people against the tyranny of the EU,” CPAC head Matt Schlapp told AP recently. "He's captured the attention of a lot of people, including a lot of people in America who are worried about the decline of the family."
Go deeper