Liberal lawmakers in the European Parliament have expressed their outrage at a recent billboard campaign by Hungary’s governing party ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections targeting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Hundreds of billboards have been erected across the country depicting von der Leyen with Alex Soros, the son of U.S.-Hungarian billionaire George Soros whom Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party claims is the financier of several liberal organizations attempting to discredit the Hungarian government and undermine conservative administrations across the West.
Images of the duo are shown alongside the caption, “Let’s not dance to their tune,” a quote taken from a speech by Orbán last month in which he labeled the European Union a “bad parody” of the former Soviet Union. He also insisted his administration would continue to run Hungary as it saw fit despite attempts by Brussels to wrestle control from national governments.
❗️How do you know you've hit the nail right on the head? All your ardent political opponents are fuming… @guyverhofstadt @vonderleyen @daniel_freund @ManfredWeber @AlexanderSoros @georgesoros pic.twitter.com/Hli3tnWb5O— Zoltan Kovacs (@zoltanspox) November 20, 2023
Budapest has ramped up its rhetoric against the European Commission in recent weeks, and Orbán again targeted the bloc’s executive during a speech at his party’s congress on Saturday as he called for the current model of EU governance to be replaced.
“The Union must not be left but changed, but this is only possible if there are radical changes in Brussels. Otherwise, the end will come. If it continues like this, the Union will not explode, it will simply fall apart,” he told attendees.
The European Union needs radical reform or it will fall apart, warns re-elected Hungary PM Orbán
The Hungarian prime minister praised his administration’s alternative approach and called for countries to “say no to the Brussels model of Europe”
The advertising campaign appears to have angered all the right people as far as Fidesz is concerned, with arch-Eurofederalist MEP Guy Verhofstadt calling it “scandalous” and accusing Orbán of “dangerous Putinism and despicable anti-semitism,” the latter accusation borne solely from the fact that Alex Soros is Jewish.
Scandalous…— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) November 20, 2023
Fortunately Hungarians know all too well EU-membership makes them more, not less independent… and they choose Europe over Orbán’s dangerous Putinism and despicable anti-semitism ! pic.twitter.com/gPDi3hnwU3
Similarly, German Green MEP Daniel Freund, seemingly perennially enraged by the conservative administration in Budapest, called for the European Commission to suspend Hungarian’s upcoming presidency of the European Council.
“For von der Leyen, there is only one reaction to this dirty campaign: Suspend all preparatory meetings for the council presidency between the EU Commission and the Hungarian government,” he raged.
Von der Leyen, at least publicly is understood to have been unfazed by the campaign, according to the European Commission’s spokesperson Eric Mamer.
“I showed the pictures to the president. She didn’t bat an eyelash … completely unfazed. Let’s be clear: We know this is not the first time, it’s probably not the last time, we have business to do,” he told journalists at Monday’s press briefing.
“We have crises to manage, we have policies to implement, Hungary is part of the European Union … It sits at the table,” he added.