Viktor Orbán’s Defense of Christian Values and Turkey Is Steeped in Hypocrisy
Monday, June 21, 2021
Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst
On June 15, the Hungarian Parliament passed a law banning the “promotion of pornography and homosexuality.” It was previously unimaginable that such a law could exist in the liberal European Union, but it does demonstrate that Hungary is moving towards de-Westernization/de-liberalization. This process is also seeing the Central European country pivot much closer towards Turkey, contradicting the claim that it protects and champions Christian and traditional values.
For French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune, Hungary’s new law is “discrimination contrary to the values which bind us, enshrined in our treaties.” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter said the new law “raises concerns” about “freedom of expression” and stressed that restrictions “have no place in democratic society.” European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli warned shortly before the bill’s approval that the European Union could withhold funding over Hungary’s move.
Adopted on June 15 by the Hungarian Parliament, the law banning the “promotion of pornography and homosexuality among minors” caused an uproar in the West. But Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a leading voice in the illiberal bloc of the EU, is uncompromising and has promised a “new era” aimed at upholding Christian and traditional values.
The law is the result of a power balance between the EU and Central European countries that are increasingly becoming more conservative and away from the West. Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) of 1992 enshrines pell-mell respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, respect for human and minority rights – principles that strive to promote European diplomacy, and often contradictorily.
However, since the 2015 migrant crisis, the political and ideological divide between the countries of the Visegrád Group (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Czechia) and the West widened. This division blocked for more than six months the adoption of the European recovery plan worth €750 billion that was adopted in July 2020. This was because there were conditions for upholding human rights.
In 2012, Orbán defended his vision in Brussels in front of European parliamentarians: “We have Christian feelings, we think that the feeling of being part of a nation is important and that the family is important.”
Hungarians are actually not anti-European Union, but Budapest does have the goal to try and influence a reorientation of the bloc towards a Europe of nations rather than towards a more integrated system dominated by Westernization. Behind Hungarian conservatism, there is the criticism of cultural imperialism promoted by Brussels, Berlin and Washington.
Westernization spread in the 1990s following the implosion of the Soviet Union, which in turn emboldened the enlargement process of NATO and the European Union. However, the economic emergence of China and the military recovery of Russia question the liberal model that dominated the global order when the U.S. became the sole superpower.
The founding speech of illiberalism by Orbán in 2014 perfectly illustrated the desire to break with dogmas and ideologies of the West. He took as an example some of the non-Western political systems that exist: “Today, Singapore, China, India, Turkey and Russia are the most popular models.”
Western progressive values are losing ground in the ideological confrontations of the 21st century. If Orbán’s illiberalism remains deeply European, it has the potential to ideologically dominate large areas of the Europe Union, especially the Visegrád Group.
For the Hungarian Prime Minister, Europe must reaffirm its civilizational anchoring based on its Christian roots. But the paradox is that this observation is drawn from a vision which goes beyond the European framework, which looks at the rest of the world as it is: de-liberalizing since China and Russia are rising.
However, for all of Orbán’s emphasis on Christian and traditional values, his actions are often reeked in contradiction and hypocrisy. In one example, Orbán said in 2019 that Turkey is a “strategic partner” that every Hungarian should respect. He also praised the country for its role in “fighting” illegal immigration to Europe. This was despite the fact that it is Turkey’s very support for terrorist organizations in Syria that sparked the 2015 migrant crisis.
In fact, in 2019, Orbán even praised Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria that led to churches being destroyed and Ishak, a Syriac Christian leader, warning that there was a heightened risk of genocide. EURACTIV in 2020 contacted the Hungarian Permanent Representation to the EU and the Hungarian ministry of foreign affairs, as well as ‘Hungary Helps’ – a government agency that provides humanitarian assistance, with special attention to persecuted Christians – for comments on Turkey’s reconversion of Hagia Sophia Cathedral into a mosque, but as they wrote: “Not a peep yet.”
In this way, although Orbán undoubtedly works towards the de-liberalization of Central Europe, his façade of Christian and traditional values is a mask steeped in contradiction and hypocrisy. Of course, there is no reason why Hungary should not have strong relations with Turkey, but at the same time it cannot contradictorily claim it supports Christian values whilst praising military forces driving Christians from their homes in northern Syria and remaining silent when one of the most ancient and endearing monuments of Christianity becomes Islamified.
Orbán cites Singapore, China, India, Turkey and Russia as model countries. However, regarding these five countries, Turkey stands out as one that is extremely intolerant towards minority groups, especially Christians and Kurds. The other four countries are also multiethnic and multireligious, but with their rights protected and enshrined in reality and not just on paper. In this way, the Hungarian Prime Minister’s defense of Turkey is based on extreme cynicism of the European Union rather than his claims of defending Christian and traditional values.
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