Miranda Devine

Opinion

Conservative European countries facing pressure to turn woke

If you ever doubted that woke ideologues are heartless hypocrites, look at what the liberal European Union just did to Poland and Hungary, even while those conservative countries were doing their best to accommodate 1.7 million Ukrainian refugees streaming across their borders

It is hard to believe in the middle of the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II, but the European Parliament voted last week to slap millions of dollars in economic sanctions on the former Communist countries, including freezing pandemic loans, as punishment for refusing to go along with so-called EU “values.” 

Their sin is to have conservative populist governments that rejected open border and LGBTQ policies imposed by Brussels. Like Florida and Texas, Poland and Hungary have passed laws banning schools from indoctrinating young children on gender ideology and sexual orientation. And the nations refused to allow illegal migrants from the Middle East overrun their borders after Germany’s Angela Merkel unilaterally ushered millions of mainly young Muslim men into Europe in 2015 during the Syrian crisis. 

“Taxpayers’ money needs to be protected against those who undermine the EU’s values,” the European Parliament declared in a press release on Thursday. 

Coming just three weeks before Hungary’s conservative nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán asks voters for a fifth term, the EU intervention is nothing less than election interference, says his chief political adviser, Balázs Orbán (no relation). 

Balázs Orbán, 36, says Hungary’s government has been under “ridiculous pressure for years” from Brussels because of its conservative, family-first policies. 

“Liberal policies became very popular in some of the Brussels institutions, especially in the European Parliament,” Balázs Orbán said on the phone from Budapest Sunday. 

Ukrainian refugees line up at a border checkpoint in Medyka, Poland, on March 13, 2022.
REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

“Those politicians, the majority are leftists, liberal, green progressives. Politically, they are on a different side. The problem is they think about European cooperation from an ideological point of view when it never was originally about ideological homogeneity [but] economic prosperity.” 

On border security, energy policy, education and family values, he says, Brussels’ liberal overlords are trying to impose their will on Hungary’s democratically elected government. 

“We are warm-heartedly welcoming the Ukrainian refugees,” says Orbán, pointing out that Hungary has accepted “about 400,000” refugees since the Russian invasion, a significant burden on a country of 10 million people. 

But Hungary wants to retain the right to distinguish between illegal migrants from half a world away and refugees fleeing a war zone next door. 

Brussels overreach 

The EU is trying to “destroy all the legal mechanisms which are necessary to secure our borders, the structures we invented, the fence, the physical borders and legal mechanisms … They want to make it impossible [to stop] illegal migrants.” 

Similarly, the EU is trying to force Hungary to overturn laws passed by its parliament that ban the indoctrination of children in the finer points of gender fluidity. 

“They say it goes against homosexuality and sexual minorities. That’s a lie. Hungary is a free country. Everyone can do whatever he or she wants after the age of 18 but we are protecting our children and saving them from gender propaganda starting in kindergarten and they are attacking that.” 

On energy, Hungary has come under pressure from Germany and Austria to close its nuclear power plants, which provide almost half its electricity and help keep Hungary’s greenhouse gas emissions among the lowest in Europe. Without nuclear power, Hungary would be even more dependent on Russian gas, which provides 80% of household heating. 

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief political adviser accused the EU of election interference after it sanctioned Hungary five weeks before the country’s election.
REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

Prime Minister Orbán, who has branded EU climate plans “utopian fantasy” and blamed them for Europe’s soaring energy prices, eventually agreed to the Brussels target of net zero emissions by 2050. 

But Hungary capped utility prices in the country to protect families from rising energy costs. This also fell afoul of the EU, says Balázs Orbán. 

“Right now, there is a price cap on utility costs and that’s why the Hungarian people pay the lowest utility bills in Europe. From a market liberalization point of view, [the EU] keeps attacking this price cap.” 

Hungary spends 6.2% of its gross domestic product on family support programs, twice as much as the OECD average, encouraging couples to have more kids. A staggeringly generous new Family Housing Allowance Program offers $130,000, plus a $220,000 loan, to families who promise to have at least three children, so they can build a new green home. 

Married Hungarian women get a $30,000 low-interest “baby loan,” which becomes interest-free after the first child and doesn’t have to be repaid after the third. 

Again, Brussels liberals disapprove. “Our problem is that on the one hand they are not supporting these ideas and on the other hand … always in the Brusselian documents it’s about giving the money to illegal migrants and not supporting Hungarian families.” 

Authoritarian overreach by Brussels forced the UK’s “Brexit” out of the EU. But Orbán says a “Hexit” is not in the cards. 

Orban’s government features several pro-family policies such as loans for parents.
Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images

“Hungarians are very much pro-European … It comes from medieval history when we were the last frontier, the defenders of Christian Europe. We want to be members of the club but grassroots voters can distinguish between being pro-Europe and critical toward Brussels.” 

Europe’s lefty bloc 

To understand Hungary’s plight, imagine Washington, DC, was Brussels and the Biden administration was in permanent rule. A horrible thought. 

Currently, four of the five largest member states of the EU — Italy, Spain, France and Germany — are led by progressive, green or liberal governments. Only Poland is majority conservative. 

Balázs Orbán asks the EU to imagine if the situation were reversed, and conservatives became the majority bloc, and decided to disrespect the national sovereignty of smaller countries. How would Sweden and Holland like it if they were pressured to cancel same-sex marriage, for example? 

Smug leftists should remember that the worm always turns, so it is best to treat your opponents as you would wish to be treated.