Viktor Orbán sparks outrage with attack on ‘race mixing’ in Europe

Hungary’s far-right prime minister says countries where races mingle are ‘no longer nations’

Hungary’s far-right prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has lashed out against the “mixing” of European and non-European races, in a speech that immediately drew outrage from opposition parties and European politicians.

“We [Hungarians] are not a mixed race … and we do not want to become a mixed race,” said Orbán on Saturday. He added that countries where European and non-Europeans mingle were “no longer nations”.

Orbán has been making similar claims for years, but these comments were couched in stark far-right terms.

Katalin Cseh, an MEP from the opposition Momentum party, said she was appalled by the prime minister’s speech. “His statements recall a time I think we would all like to forget. They really show the true colours of the regime,” she said.

On Twitter, Cseh addressed mixed-race people in Hungary: “Your skin colour may be different, you may come from Europe or beyond, but you are one of us, and we are proud of you. Diversity strengthens the nation, it doesn’t weaken it.”

The Romanian MEP Alin Mituța also responded angrily to Orbán’s comments. “Speaking about race or ethnic ‘purity’, especially in such a mixed region such as central and eastern Europe, is purely delusional and dangerous. And so is Mr Orban,” he wrote on Twitter.

Orbán made the remarks during a showpiece annual speech in Băile Tuşnad, Romania, where he has previously floated major policy ideas or ideological directions. It was there, in 2014, that he first said he wanted to build an “illiberal democracy” in Hungary.

This year, Orbán gave an apocalyptic speech predicting the decline of the west and prophesying “a decade of peril, uncertainty, and war”. He also sharply criticised western military support for Ukraine, positioning himself as Moscow’s foremost ally inside the European Union.

“The more modern weapons Nato gives the Ukrainians, the more the Russians will push the frontline forward … What we are doing is prolonging the war,” said Orbán during a speech on Saturday.

Hungary is a member of Nato, but the far-right Orbán has long had warm relations with Putin, and spent five hours in Moscow talking to the Russian leader in February, shortly before the Russian invasion. The speech came two days after his foreign minister made a surprise trip to Moscow for talks, and puts him far outside the European consensus on the war.

Orbán said the job of the west should not be to hope for a Ukrainian victory, but to mediate a peace deal. “We shouldn’t be on Russia’s side, or Ukraine’s side, but between the two,” he said, adding that the policy of imposing sanctions on Russia had not worked.

Oleg Nikolenko, spokesperson for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, described Orbán’s claims as “Russian propaganda”.

Orbán won a fourth consecutive term in office in an election earlier this year, with his government accused of stifling media freedom and backsliding on democratic norms since his Fidesz party won power in 2010. Since the 2015 refugee crisis, Orbán’s government has used far-right anti-migration rhetoric as its main talking point.

On Saturday, he made frequent nods to the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which claims there is a plot to dilute the white populations of the US and European countries through immigration. He said it was “an ideological trick of the internationalist left to say the European population is already mixed race”.

He named demographics, migration and gender as the main battlefields of the future, on the same day that thousands of people rallied in Budapest for the city’s annual Pride march.

Budapest Pride parade
Budapest Pride parade. Photograph: Ferenc Isza/AFP/Getty

The European Commission is currently suing Hungary over a recent anti-LGBTQ+ law, a copy of Russia’s “gay propaganda” law. It bans gay people from featuring in school educational materials or TV shows aimed at minors.

Orbán’s position on Ukraine has lost him support among some of his previous ideological allies, notably Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, which has criticised his equivocal stance on the war.

“He’s further away from the European mainstream than ever before,” said Péter Krekó, of the Political Capital thinktank in Budapest. “I think he really believes that migration pressures will mean the united west is soon over and every government will become far right … It’s also clear he wants Russia to win this war.”

Orbán will be hoping for Italian elections in September to return a rightwing coalition, and is also rooting for the return of Donald Trump in 2024. Next month, he is due to travel to Dallas, Texas, where he will address CPAC, a large gathering of American conservatives. Earlier this year, CPAC hosted a special session of the conference in Budapest.

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At home, Orbán’s battle with European institutions seems likely to intensify further. The EU has frozen several billion euros of recovery funds earmarked for Hungary over corruption and rule-of-law concerns. Orbán’s harsh speech may be a sign that the Hungarian government has given up on receiving the funds.

“He knows exactly what reaction there would be to this speech, and I think he’s preparing for a lack of compromise,” said Krekó. “He wants to fight the symbolic fight instead of talking about the austerity measures they will need to introduce.”


Shaun Walker in Budapest and Flora Garamvolgyi

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