Another Election, Another Border Wall – in Hungary

U.S.-based Hungarian blog Hungarian Free Press published a piece last week about a weekend picnic of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, discussing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s intent to erect a $470-million wall on the country’s border, meant to keep migrants out – one that Orbán says he expects the EU to pay for.

While the celebratory picnic was closed to outsiders and media, select friends from the media, education, and business sectors were invited. Hungarian Free Press claims that the topic of the day were the Prime Minister’s continued warnings that the country must defend its borders from what his government has claimed are an estimated 60 million migrants expected to enter Europe from North Africa by 2020. Some experts in the country have said these numbers are grossly exaggerated.

A recent Quartz piece has described it as “Orbán taking a page out of Donald Trump’s playbook.” If anything, the situation is quite the opposite. While Orbán may not have written the anti-migrant playbook, he has been using it for a while, and with some success.

Viktor Orbán, 2012. Image by European People’s Party [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Orbán first began overtly demonstrating his anti-migrant and fear-mongering rhetoric in 2015. In the summer of 2015, the Hungarian government ran an extensive billboard campaign throughout the country, in an attempt to send a message to those considering immigrating. The billboard gimmick was an an extension of a national debate on immigration and terrorism at the time, in which Orbán and the Fidesz party were promoting a hostile stance towards non-Hungarians.

During that campaign, the government also approved construction of a 4-meter-tall fence barrier on the border with Serbia, amid the European migrant crisis. In the meantime, the EU has enforced migrant quotas for its member states and, in response to complaints filed by Hungary and Slovakia, the European Court of Justice upheld the union’s right to force its member states to take in refugees in early September 2017. Orbán has since said since that the country will continue to reject migrants, regardless of the ruling and EU quotas.

The next general election in Hungary is expected to take place in early 2018 and Orbán and his party seem to be amping up for the campaign. Orbán and Fidesz have been in power in Hungary since the 2010 election and have since implemented constitutional changes that benefit their one-party stronghold on the country. Just months ahead of Hungary’s next parliamentary election, the country’s opposition is greatly divided, while the Fidesz party is set on keeping its mammoth stake in government.

Feature image source credit: BuBiSvÍz [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Danica Radisic

Danica Radisic is Editor-in-Chief of The SEE Observer. She is also the proud owner of toddler, teen, two dogs, and a boutique communications and marketing agency. Danica has spent over a decade not only following and working with media in Southeast Europe, but also training journalists in using new tools and new media development. Follow Danica on Twitter as @nikibgd.

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