Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has hit back at disparaging remarks made recently by former European Parliament President Martin Schulz about the state of democracy in EU member states such as Hungary and Poland.
In an interview with the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau, the German politician said that his compatriot Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party, was wrong to use the far-right to try to maintain the leadership of the moderate right in Strasbourg.
Asked in a broader context about the European political landscape, Schulz claimed that politicians such as Viktor Orbán and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland, had taken the late Silvio Berlusconi’s lead by seizing power and impinging on democratic principles.
“With this attitude: as soon as I have a majority, the state belongs to me. And those who are against me are not competitors but enemies. According to the motto: whoever is not with us is against us, and whoever is against us has to go. This is downright fascistic thinking,” Schulz said about the Polish and Hungarian leaders.
He suggested that “anyone who proceeds in this way calls into question the basic consensus of democracy, namely that the voter decides on the fair competition of arguments.”
He warned that by pandering to what he describes as the far-right, European politicians risk “the next president of the [European] Commission being dependent on Orbáns and Kaczynskis.”
“These people have nothing to do with Europe… They can only be won over by money, and Orbán is trying to give the impression that he no longer cares about that either because he is buying his way in with the Russians and the Chinese. That is why Manfred Weber’s approach is wrong, and I am very curious to see how Mrs von der Leyen reacts to this,” Schulz added.
Prime Minister Orbán took to social media on Wednesday to respond to the remarks.
“Nice to see that Martin Schulz came back from retirement,” he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Now he wants to decide who is European and who is not. It seems that some people just can’t let go of communism,” he added.
The Hungarian leader has had a fractured relationship with the failed SPD candidate for the German chancellorship who, during the 2017 German election campaign, vowed to push for the European Union to cut all subsidies to countries that refuse to take in migrants.