Angela Merkels top ally in Brussels has leapt to the defence of Hungary’s authoritarianprime minister, after the controversial leader claimed that the era of liberal democracy was over.
Nationalist Viktor Orban kicked off his fourth term as prime minister by claiming his party had replaced shipwrecked liberal democracy with a 21st-century Christian democracy that supports the traditional family model of one man and one woman.
Mr Orban has rolled back human rights and launched new legislation to crackdown on NGOs, universities, and charities. His government has also been accused of running a state-backed campaign of antisemitism against US businessman George Soros, who the PM regularly accuses of meddling in the country.
Asked about the right-wing leaders latest comments at a press conference at the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, the leader of the European Peoples Party group, warned people not to point fingers at Mr Orban and claim that hes not a good European.
In Europe of course the terms that we use when we discuss things are incredibly important, he told reporters, addressing the comments about liberal democracy.
They have different meanings and different backgrounds depending on where people come from. If you look at the migration debate from where I come from often were talking about refugees.
But if you look at Prague, Bratislava, or Budapest, often the debate is more focused elsewhere. Theyre talking about illegal migration instead. Its for that reason that I think whats most important is for us to talk to one another and deal with one another. Thats true when it comes to this issue of definitions as well.
I think there are enough opportunities to move forward here. However I think we need to move forward in respect for one another and respect for our common values. I think there should be absolutely no movement on that.
Mr Weber is a member of Angela Merkels CDU/CSU party at a national level in Germany, which sits with Mr Orbans Fidesz party in the European Peoples Party at an EU level.
The defence of Mr Orban is the latest example of the EPP, which is the largest political group in the European Parliament and the home group of Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, shielding Mr Orbans regime from criticism.
Last year over 1,500 petitioned the EPP to kick out Mr Orbans party on the basis that it denies all the values that this group stands for, but no action was taken.
Some EPP MEPs have also in the past openly criticised Mr Orban and called for his party to be suspended from the group.
Amesty International has said a new law being pushed by the Hungarian government to muzzle NGOs working with migrants poses an existential threat to civil society and critics of the ruling party.
The proposed new law require charities to pay a tax of 25 per cent of any foreign funding aimed at supporting refugees and migrants. Those targeted can be subjected to exorbitant fines, bankruptcy, and dissolution.