Across Hungary, George Soros’s aged face dominates bus stops, pedestrian pathways, and major intersections with the cryptic message, “Don’t let Soros have the last laugh.”
Last laugh? A tag line explained the allusion: “99% reject illegal immigration.”
The anti-Soros ad campaign conflates the controversial financier’s investments in leftwing political causes, including open borders, with the European Union’s ongoing effort to force Hungary and other EU countries to accept an annual quota of illegal immigrants.
To redistribute hundreds of thousands of people who arrived in Italy and Greece in 2015, the EU assigned each member state a compulsory number: 1,294 for Hungary.
Although Hungary, together with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland (known as the Visegrad Four), rejected any obligation to resettle illegals, the EU has dogged them since.
This group has held the line against migration quotas, and could be slapped with sanctions, despite the fact that few members of the EU achieved the relocation targets.
Hungary’s conservative ruling party Fidesz (Alliance of Young Democrats), led by high-profile Prime Minister Viktor Orban, 54, launched the Soros-themed campaign last July as one of several moves to limit the subversive philanthropist’s influence in his homeland — and to personalize the internationalist ideas Orban and his government reject.
It was also the first volley in Orban’s campaign for re-election to his fourth term as premier in general elections to be held April 8.
Orban is making his clash with the EU over mass migration a campaign centerpiece.
“This danger to us comes from politicians in Brussels, Berlin and Paris,” he declared during his state of the union/campaign kick-off speech on February 18 in Budapest.
“They want us to adopt their policies: the policies that made them immigrant countries and that opened the way for the decline of Christian culture and the expansion of Islam,” he continued.
Again, Orban used the figure of George Soros to personify Hungary’s primary opponents: the “international bureaucrats he has bought” in Brussels and at the United Nations, determined to enforce a globalist ideology opposing “people who have our own country, our own culture, and our own religion.”
Viktor Orban clearly gets a kick out of provoking Western Europe despite the resentment he has inspired: the prime minister has been called autocratic, authoritarian, and xenophobic — the last by an Obama administration ambassador to Hungary.
Soros blasted the prime minister in a video released in December, asserting, “He transformed democracy into an anti-democratic regime.” He also described the Hungarian government a “mafia regime,” worse than the Soviet occupation.
Despite this pressure from the EU, Soros, and his vast network, Orban’s party has an estimated 53% in current polls.
Beyond the rhetoric, why is Orban so emphatic that Hungary reject a program originally designed just to help Greece and Italy? And aren’t frequent references to “Muslim invaders” unnecessarily insulting, especially for a self-described Christian leader? Anyway, as a Christian nation, isn’t Hungary obligated to offer charity?
To explore these questions, I visited Hungary last fall. There, I experienced broad, popular support for the prime minister and his positions — and understood so much more clearly: Hungary’s approach to migration flows from a unique historical experience that Brussels ignores at its peril.
Hungary’s third largest city, Szeged, on the border with Serbia and Romania was on the frontline of the migration drama two and a half years ago when 400,000 migrants and refugees who originated in Turkey, surged into Hungary heading for Austria and Germany. Orban immediately denounced the EU/Soros inspired plan to change his country’s demography and culture.
In the face of this “existential” crisis, Orban recently completed a sophisticated, 110-mile fence along the southern border with Serbia and Croatia to keep migrants out.
On a crisp October evening in Szeged’s historic Dom Square, 3,000 people of every age devoured with rapt attention a spectacular outdoor light show and pageant. “Here You Must Live and Die” is replete with a 500-person company featuring warriors on horseback, fire jugglers, celebrity singers and dancers, and an acrobatic dwarf, retired from the Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The finale brought fireworks illuminating the Cathedral of Our Lady of Hungary, or Votive Church, a giant brick structure (the country’s fourth largest) with twin spires built some ninety years ago.
The oversized cathedral was a dramatic backdrop for filmmaker Gabor Koltay’s production, a theatrical portrait of Hungary’s 1,000-year history.
From the December 25, 1000 AD crowning of the nation’s first king, St. Stephen, who rebuked invaders from the Holy Roman Emperor thirty years later, to the struggle to survive under Ottoman Turk rule, 1541-1699; from the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1920 to the Soviet occupation in 1944 and Soviet-Warsaw Pact invasion of 1956, what the production drove home is how often Hungarians have had to defend themselves from outside aggression.
After the show, at a packed reception in the recently renovated cathedral’s lower level, director Koltay explained his scope as bringing to life Hungary’s dramatic story to stir deep emotions of identity and belongingness.
In no way did the gathering feel chauvinistic or bellicose. Rather, it seemed to crystalize the spirit of a people proud to have recaptured freedom — and determined to protect it.
One of the sponsors of “Here You Must Live and Die” was the Catholic community that hosted the after party. Bishop Lazlo Kiss-Rigo of Szeged–Csanád leads the area’s Catholic diocese that, 100 years ago, covered territory now divided between three countries: Hungary, Romania, and Serbia.
Subotica, a majority Hungarian town on the Serbian border, is 28 miles south. Timisoara, with small German, Hungarian, and Serbian minorities is a culturally prosperous, cosmopolitan Romanian city, 75 miles east. “We [the bishops from the three neighboring cities, once part of the same diocese] meet often and make common decisions which affect our communities,” said Bishop Kiss-Rigo.
According to the friendly and unassuming bishop, 62, appointed in 2006, relations in the multi-ethnic region are excellent, and the bishops representing adjacent parcels of the old Diocese of Csanád (established in 1035) meet regularly.
Kiss-Rigo, whose fluent English was polished as a child when his family lived in India, was a witness to the mass incursion of people marching from Serbia into Hungary on their way to Western Europe in 2015. Regarding refugees, he said, “Hungary welcomes everyone who knocks at the door. But those who try to jump over the wall, or come in through the window? They are not welcome.”
The bishop was on the border with Caritas, the Catholic Church’s humanitarian arm, to assess the needs of people arriving: “At first, we thought they were refugees but we quickly realized it was something else. Forced migration, which means a forced change in our culture,” which no nation is obligated to accept.
He shared his observations with a Washington Post reporter, whose inflammatory article pits Bishop Kiss-Rigo against Pope Francis.
“The situation here is not exactly what the Holy Father understood, but he can’t be expected to know everything, everywhere,” the bishop told The American Spectator. He “wrote a long letter to the pope” to explain Hungary’s perspective.
As the pageant reflected, Hungary has experienced “cycles of tragedy and re-emergence,” explained Bishop Kiss-Rigo.
He sees the contemporary period of re-emergence as being marked by “collaboration between Church and State for the good of society.” Rather than coping with refugees who don’t want to settle in Hungary, the consensus in Hungary supports helping victims of war in their own countries.
Kiss-Rigo visited Syria in 2016 to bring donations collected in his parish to rural churches. He was touched, in particular, when he noted Muslims present at the Mass. When it was over, the parish priest divided all the gifts and money from Hungary between the two communities, Muslim and Christian, explaining the two share as much as they can.
In October, the bishop was planning a December visit to the country of Georgia where the Orthodox Church is tremendously influential. Prime Minister Orban’s wife, Anikó Levai, was expected to participate. Orban is a Calvinist, and his wife is a Catholic.
Most important, according to the bishop, whatever the prime minister does is done in accordance with Christian values, yet he has no personal antipathy for Islam.
Other Hungarian bishops share Kiss-Rigo’s outlook. Bishop Gyla Marfi of Veszprém told an Italian magazine, “Just because we love the wolves, as God’s creatures, doesn’t mean we let them enter among the sheep.”
He continued, “Jihad is a principle for Muslims that means they must expand. The earth must become dar al-Islam, that is, Islamic territory, by introducing Shariah-Islamic law.… They do not let them into Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, but they give them money and incite them to immigrate here.”
At an August 2016 International Catholic Legislators Network meeting in Frascati, Italy, Prime Minister Viktor Orban was particularly moved by presentations from patriarchs representing the, Syriac Orthodox Church in Damascus, Syria; the Syriac Catholic Church based in Beirut, Lebanon; the Maronite Church based in Bkerke, Lebanon; and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church based in Aleppo, Syria.
Eduard von Habsburg, Hungary’s ambassador to the Holy See, told The American Spectator, Orban decided on the spot to create a government department dedicated to helping persecuted Christians in the Middle East within Hungary’s Ministry of Human Capacities. The office’s original budget of $3.35M, tripled in 2017 to $10M.
Funds have been used to rebuild schools, churches, houses, and clinics. Last year, two million Euro was spent to help over 1,000 families return to their homes in Telsqof, a town on the Nineveh Plain overrun by Daesh (ISIS) in 2014.
Against the accusation that Orban is xenophobic, Human Capacities Minister Zoltan Balog points out the government is offering 6,000 university scholarships for students from around the world, with 40% of the slots designated for Muslim students.
“We favor legal immigration, for people of every religion, not illegal immigration, that’s the point,” he told The American Spectator at the Hungarian Embassy in Washington, D.C., where the delegation was opening an exhibit on Christian persecution in the Middle East. “Our task, as requested by the Bishops and Patriarchs of the Middle East, is to help Christians relocate in their ancestral lands, rebuild their communities and together with international partners secure their protection,” Balog said.
Balog added, “It is our role to provoke our European partners. We want to wake up Europe. It was the same situation when Hungary defended Christian Europe against the Ottomans.” Fighting empires is a Hungarian tradition.
At an international consultation on persecuted Christians in Budapest last October, “Finding the Appropriate Answers to a Long Neglected Crisis,” Prime Minister Orban explained that Hungary’s experience defending Europe’s southern flank against the Turks during the 16th and 17th centuries combined with suffering under Communism’s atheistic regime in the 20th century, makes the nation particularly sensitive to Christian persecution today in the Middle East and North Africa.
Orban speculated that Western Europe seems indifferent to this tragic issue because it is confounded by political correctness. Despite the existence of some excellent individuals, the stultifying effects of coalition government plus left-leaning media conspire to block action, the prime minister said.
Therefore, Orban sees Hungary as assuming leadership on behalf of the persecuted because its history compels Hungarians to acknowledge the relationship between Christianity and freedom as well as productivity.
He said, “We Hungarians recognize the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood. And if we recognize this for ourselves, then we also recognize it for other nations; in other words, we want Christian communities returning to Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria to become forces for the preservation of their own countries just as for Hungarians Christianity is a force for preservation.”
Inexplicitly, the U.S. Embassy in Hungary remains a thorn in the government’s side.
Without a US ambassador in Budapest for more than a year it seems the Obama/Clinton network is still trying to undermine Viktor Orban as it did under political appointees: U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Coleen Bell (2015-2017), who criticized Hungary for “antipathy toward refugees” back in 2015, which the Hungarian government considered, not the USA’s business, and under U.S. Ambassador Elena Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis to Hungary (2010-2013).
Last fall, it emerged that the U.S. State Department’s would invest $700,000 to support “objective media” in rural areas in anticipation of Hungary’s upcoming elections. As LifesiteNews pointed out, the grant represents U.S. siding with Soros against Orban.
Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó observed it is “not normal practice for a democratic country to start financing the media of another allied democratic country from its own budget.” U.S. Chargé d’Affaires, David Kostelancik, was summoned several times by the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for explanation.
Especially in the context of accusations of Russian interference in American elections, 15 members of Congress, led by Rep. Andrew Harris (R-MD), co-chair of the U.S.-Hungarian Caucus, pushed back. They signed a letter asking Secretary Rex Tillerson and the White House to pull funding from Hungarian domestic politics.
Repeated “interference in Hungarian internal politics” is meant to cause deliberate diplomatic crisis in the U.S.-Hungarian relations since President Donald Trump’s election, Hungarian sources told The American Spectator.
Regional Bloc to Knock EU
The U.S. State Department and European Union might try to isolate Viktor Orban, but his perspective is resonating in Central Europe and beyond.
Most terrifying for the Brussels/Soros alliance, Orban is emerging as leader of a powerful block within the European Union, challenging the EU’s liberal agenda: the Visegrad Four has begun attracting other countries, including Austria, Croatia, Slovenia (also Catholic, with recently elected, conservative leaders), and possibly Romania (EU’s largest Orthodox country).
All are concerned to defend national sovereignty in the face of the EU’s unpopular rules.
The Visegrad’s Four long-term ambition is to expand even further east to include Moldova and Georgia, and south to include the Balkan states.
Sandwiched between a culturally and demographically decaying West and a reemerging Russia in the East, the V4 are reassessing their alliances. This is when Viktor Orban steps forward on the regional stage. His discourse has a larger and deeper meaning. He is proposing a 21st century Mitteleuropa.
A post-EU vision has emerged. Sovereign nations — Central, Eastern, and Balkan states — that sprang out of centuries-long imperial domination, then Communist control, are challenging the EU/Soros doctrine.
Our series, “Soros in the Balkans and Central Europe Under the American Flag,” will continue.