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Hungary's Orban hits out at EU during anti-Soviet uprising commemoration speech

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By Euronews  with AP, EBU
PM Viktor Orban reacts as he delivers a speech during an event to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet occupation, 23 October 2022
PM Viktor Orban reacts as he delivers a speech during an event to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet occupation, 23 October 2022   -   Copyright  ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP   -  

Hungary's national flag was hoisted with military honours in front of the parliament building in Budapest on Sunday in a state commemoration marking the anniversary of the 1956 anti-Soviet revolt.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban addressed crowds in Zalaegerszeg in western Hungary at the inauguration ceremony of a new visitors' centre dedicated to the late Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty.

Mindszenty was a Catholic clergyman who fiercely opposed totalitarianism in Hungary during the 20th century.

After being imprisoned by Hungary's fascist Arrow Cross Party during World War II, Mindszenty was tortured and given a life sentence in front of a kangaroo court by the communist authorities in 1949, sparking worldwide criticism that culminated in a United Nations resolution.

In his speech, Orban, a right-wing populist, lauded the nationwide resistance efforts -- but didn't pass up the opportunity to hit out at those on the left, who he said resented the fact that commemorations were taking place outside the capital.

“1956 was a revolution not of a city, but of an entire country, of the whole nation”, Orban said.

"In the opinion of the left, which looks down on us people living in the countryside, it is not correct to celebrate in Zalaegerszeg ... they do not understand that Budapest is not identical with the country", he added.

Orban also used the speech to take a swipe at the EU amidst its attempts to counter the Hungarian government's illiberal backsliding. 

Brussels is mulling over whether to suspend €7.5 billion in EU funds over increasing concerns regarding Budapest's rule-of-law record.

“Let’s not bother with those who shoot at Hungary from the shadows or from the heights of Brussels. They will end up where their predecessors did,” Orban said on Sunday.

Orban's comments in Zalaegerszeg are the latest in a long-lasting spat between him and authorities in Brussels. 

His Fidesz party has been suspended from the EPP group for two years until it left the group over rule-of-law disagreements in 2021, while the European Parliament's lawmakers recently declared Hungary an "electoral autocracy," demoting it from a full-fledged democracy -- a move Orban labelled as "a boring joke".

He has also been criticised for his opposition to sanctions against Moscow over its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February and disagreements on providing weapons to Kyiv.

Earlier in October, Fidesz politicians also blocked the introduction of a motion in parliament that would have speeded up a vote on the NATO accession process for Finland and Sweden, in a move that drew sharp criticism from the opposition.

“We were here when the first conquering empire attacked us, and we’ll be here when the last one collapses,” Orban said Sunday.

“We will bear it when we must, and we will push back when we can. We draw swords when there is a chance, and we resist when long years of oppression come.”

Protests which began on 23 October 66 years ago as peaceful student-led movements quickly transformed into an armed, countrywide revolution -- known as the Hungarian uprising -- against the communist dictatorship and the Soviet occupation.

The spontaneous national uprising lasted 12 days before it was crushed by Soviet tanks and troops who moved in to restore order on 4 November.

An estimated 2,500 Hungarians died, and hundreds of thousands fled the country.