Hungary’s Prime Minister on Friday accused the European Commission of “legalised hooliganism” for an infringement action against measures by his government that the EU executive said discriminated against LGBT people.
Thursday’s action against Hungary related to a new law that bans schools from using materials deemed as promoting homosexuality or gender change, which Mr Orban has described as a child-protection issue.
Stepping up a war of words with Brussels, the Hungarian leader told state radio on Friday: “This (EU infringement action) is legalised hooliganism… The European Commission’s stance is shameful.”
He said the debate offered Hungarians a glimpse into “European life”, into what went on in schools in Germany, reiterating that Hungary would not let LGBT activists “march up and down” in schools promoting what he called sexual propaganda.
Rights groups have rallied against the legislation, which Commission head Ursula von der Leyen has called a disgrace.
The European Union’s executive also opened a case against Poland on Thursday after some of that country’s regions and municipalities declared themselves “LGBT-ideology free zones”.
The infringement actions are the latest salvo in a clash of cultures between Brussels and some of the EU’s newest members in eastern Europe over a range of core issues including the rule of law and press freedoms.
“Equality and the respect for dignity and human rights are core values of the EU … The Commission will use all the instruments at its disposal to defend these values,” it said.
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It marks the latest in a series of clashes between Brussels and some of the EU’s newer eastern European members over a range of core issues including the rule of law, migration and press freedoms.
Mr Orban, a nationalist who has repeatedly crossed swords with Brussels since he took office in 2010, said EU authorities were trying to impose their will on Hungary over how children should be raised.
Facing a tough election next year, he has grown increasingly radical on social policy to protect what he says are traditional Christian values from Western liberalism.
The anti-LGBT campaign, which his government has stepped up over the past year, looks likely to feature prominently on his political platform ahead of a potentially tough national election next year.
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In the past two weeks, huge blue billboards have been erected nationwide bearing slogans such as: “Have you been annoyed with Brussels?” and “Are you afraid your children will face sexual propaganda?”
Mr Orban on Friday also predicted another clash over EU recovery funds, which have been withheld by Brussels but which he said Hungary would eventually get.
The infringement actions are the start of legal proceedings meant to force member states to comply with EU law.
Hungary and Poland have two months to respond, failing which the Commission may refer them to the EU’s Court of Justice.
Many of Mr Orban’s critics in the EU want the Commission to put maximum pressure on Budapest to scrap the law by making a link to the disbursement of billions of euros of post-pandemic EU stimulus funds.
The Commission missed its own deadline this week to sign off on Hungary’s recovery plan to allow the money to start flowing.
Mr Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, said on Thursday that debates about the new law should not have any implications for Hungary’s recovery funds.
The European Commission said it acted against Poland over LGBT-free zones because it was concerned they may violate EU law regarding non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
It added that it had not received sufficient information about the zones from Warsaw.
Poland’s government denies having laws that discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.
The governing Law and Justice Party (PiS) says gay rights are a threat to the traditional lifestyle in one of the most Catholic countries in Europe.