European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said racism goes against the values of the European Union in response to a controversial speech by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in which he argued that Europeans should not “become peoples of mixed race”.
Leaders of the European Parliament’s main parties had earlier issued a strong rebuke of Orban’s “openly racist” comments on racial mixing made last week, during an address delivered in Romania.
Von der Leyen later told Slovak news website aktuality.sk on Saturday that “all EU member states, including Hungary, have subscribed to global common values”, which are “non-negotiable”.
She added:”Discriminating on the basis of race is to trample on those values. The EU is built on equality, tolerance, justice and fair play.”
Von der Leyen did not mention the Hungarian leader explicitly and referred only to certain “rhetoric”, reported the Agence France-Presse.
She said: “While it is true that some people will always indulge in hostile rhetoric, society as a whole is much stronger.”
The Conference of Presidents of the EU Parliament said in its statement that Orban’s comments were “unacceptable” and breached the values enshrined in EU treaties.
The group, which includes leaders of the legislative body’s various political groups, as well as Parliament President Roberta Metsola, urged the European Commission and the European Council to condemn the comments “in the strongest terms”.
“Such unacceptable statements, which clearly constitute a breach of our values, also enshrined in the EU treaties, have no place in our societies,” it said.
The Deutsche Welle, or DW, news service reported that Orban’s speech provoked a backlash, including from the International Auschwitz Committee that fights racism and anti-Semitism.
A longtime adviser to Orban, Zsuzsa Hegedus, had resigned over the matter, after labeling the prime minister’s speech “a pure Nazi text”. The United States called Orban’s comments “inexcusable” and reminiscent of the Nazi era, reported the AFP.
The Politico news site noted that Orban’s government is already under scrutiny over democratic standards, the independence of the judiciary and media, and public procurement. It said the EU has barred the release of post-COVID-19 recovery funds for Hungary over its failure to respect the rule of law.
Despite the criticism, Orban stuck to his anti-immigration stance on Thursday, but insisted it was not rooted in racism, reported Reuters.
“I am the only politician in the EU who stands for an openly anti-immigration policy,” Orban told a joint news briefing with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer in Vienna.”This is not a race issue for us; this is a cultural issue,” he said.
“It happens sometimes that I say something in a way that can be misunderstood but … the position I stand for is a cultural (and civilization-based) stance.”