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Orban's victory: migration crisis 'changed the game'

Orban's victory: migration crisis 'changed the game'
By Damon Embling
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With Hungary's Viktor Orban sealing a third consecutive election win, what should Europe take from it?


If Brussels thought its Hungarian headache would ease, it was wrong. Prime Minister Viktor Orban's sweeping election victory renews his powers to change constitutional laws and that could send more ripples across its borders.

Political response on social media

The deputy leader of Germany's far-right AfD party tweeted that Orban's election victory marked a "Bad day for the EU, and a good day for Europe."

The European Parliament's EPP leader Manfred Weber added his congratulations online, while the Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Guy Verhofstadt said the EPP was legitimising Orban's "vile campaign," his attack on the rule of law.

Migration crisis 'changed the game'

Nationalist Orban projected himself as a saviour of Hungary's Christian culture against Muslim migration - and it seems to have resonated with voters.

"The migration crisis of 2015 has changed the game. It has increased the politicisation of immigration as an issue, which wasn't an issue for populists in this side of the world before," Paul Taggart, a politics professor at the University of Sussex, in England, told Euronews.

"It has allowed them to weaponise euroscepticism and immigration in the same kind of cocktail, mixing with the kind of anti-establishment politics that they've fostered at home. They now have an external agent to focus that on."

Orban could now concentrate even more on a Central European alliance against EU migration polices - working with like-minded nationalists in Poland and Austria.

Taggart commented: "The paradox here is that the populism really drives itself from drawing on the heartland of domestic politics and domestic political concern. Sometimes this can be turned against the European Union and European integration but it's not at its heart an anti-European project necessarily."

Federalism: an anti-dote?

After the election of Emmanuel Macron in France, could federalism become an anti-dote to the rise of populism?

"I think the Macron phenomenon is a very French phenomenon," said Taggart.

"There's a danger of seeing this as a catch-all response that can work all over Europe. There are some very specific things about Macron's success and the nature of French politics that has allowed him to have this success. Secondly Macron did very well to get elected but let's see how successful he is in government."

Article 7

Unlike Poland, Brussels hasn't triggered Article 7 against Hungary - but it could do, and then it would face the risk of being stripped of its EU voting rights.

"This is a political debate which is perhaps even more important than legal action. And that's also why it hurts so much that in the last three years the European institutions were not doing enough to generate a debate about European values and why all European member states have to stick to those," said former European Commissioner Laszlo Andor.

Running battles

Orban is against deeper integration of the EU - and has teamed up with Poland to stand up against Brussels policies.

Aside from migration, Orban's been locked in running battles with the EU over reforms which are said to undermine democracy - and weaken media independence in Hungary.

Andor commented: "The fact that Hungary and Poland have very similarly deviated from the European mainstream and quite deliberately confronted the EU institutions on EU policies, rules as well as values, it doesn't mean that if it's unchecked like a disease this would spread to other countries. I think there are many other countries where there have been crises and political consequences of crises without such a fundamental constitutional change which Hungary went through and Poland is going through."

European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker is said to be writing to Orban to congratulate him - but also to send a strong reminder, that all member states must defend democracy and values, with no exception.

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