BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The Hungarian government has expanded its new public campaign accusing European Union leaders of promoting mass migration, sending citizens a letter from the prime minister that warns “the Brussels bureaucrats want to break the resistance of countries opposed to immigration.”
In the one-page letter mailed to households in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the EU “has not learned anything from the horrible terror attacks of the past years” and “wants to bring even more migrants to Europe” through new measures now under development.
A separate sheet mailed with the note listed seven alleged EU policies that Orban claimed encourage migration. They include weakening member states’ rights to border protection; giving more money to “political activist groups” that support migration; cutting financial assistance to countries viewed as anti-migration; and giving migrants prepaid bank cards.
“We want to defend our security and our Christian culture,” Orban said, alleging that “to attain their objective” the EU wants to crack down on countries like Hungary that have resisted taking in asylum-seekers.
The European Commission’s Hungarian office issued a detailed rebuttal of Orban’s claims. It denied the EU wants to cut financial assistance to countries where the governments have made it known migrants are not welcome or welcomed only under narrow circumstances.
The rebuttal also said prepaid bank cards were being used only in Greece to support the integration of refugees and asylum-seekers, not to encourage immigration.
Last week, the government introduced a series of billboards, posters and ads in newspapers and on TV showing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros with the caption: “You, too, have the right to know what Brussels is planning to do.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other politicians have joined EU leaders in criticizing the Orban government’s campaign and defended Juncker.
Similar government-sponsored smear campaigns targeting Soros, portrayed by the Hungarian government as the mastermind of mass migration to Europe, helped Orban win a third consecutive term last April.
“You can personalize a political opponent, which is why” Soros can be seen behind Juncker on the posters, said Daniel Mikecz, a researcher at the Republikon Institute think-tank in Budapest. “This helps strengthen political polarization in Hungary.”
Some members of the European People’s Party, to which Orban’s Fidesz party belongs in the European Parliament, have called for Fidesz’s expulsion, but Mikecz said Orban would likely benefit from any direct EPP action.
“If the EPP expels Orban, it would confirm the government campaign that Brussels is ganging up on Hungary,” Mikecz said. “If they do nothing against Fidesz or stand by it, it would look like (Fidesz) somehow dominates the EPP.”
Still, the campaign is getting some domestic pushback.
Opposition party Momentum has launched a “reality campaign” of placing stickers on some government posters to substitute the accusations against the EU with slogans highlighting problems at home.
They include: “Every sixth Hungarian child is born abroad” — a reference to the hundreds of thousands of Hungarians who have emigrated in recent years — or “There are no family doctors in over 400 districts” and “Over 4,000 teachers are missing from schools.”
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