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2 Feb, 2024 12:38

Orban linked to farmers’ protests – FT

The Hungarian leader personally met with demonstrators in Brussels ahead of an EU summit on aid for Ukraine
Orban linked to farmers’ protests – FT

Close associates of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban are reportedly responsible for organizing the farmers’ protests in Brussels over the past week, the Financial Times reported on Friday.

The Hungarian leader personally met with protesters in the Belgian capital on Wednesday ahead of an EU summit on Ukraine aid, expressing support for what he described as “the voice of the people.” 

The farmers, thousands of whom have descended on Brussels, have been picketing the EU Parliament building, where they have burned pallets and piles of manure, and hurled eggs, stones and fireworks. They have also blockaded the Belgian capital using around 1,300 tractors.

Similar demonstrations have also been seen in other EU states including France, Germany, Italy and Poland. The farmers are protesting against the EU’s agriculture policies, environmental standards, and rising fuel prices, and are highlighting the threat to their livelihoods posed by cheap Ukrainian imports.

The Financial Times claims that Orban has been linked to a number of nationalist movements across the EU, as well as the recent farmers’ protests. The outlet claims that France’s National Rally party previously received a loan from a Hungarian bank run by Orban's associates. Budapest also allegedly funded anti-immigration adverts on YouTube in Poland ahead of last year’s parliamentary elections in the country. 

The FT has claimed that the farmers’ protests have been organized by a think tank chaired by a close aide of the prime minister, apparently referring to the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC) – a Budapest-based college whose chairman is Balazs Orban (no relation) who has served as political director to the Hungarian prime minister. 

The MCC has a Belgian-based offshoot, MCC Brussels, whose director Frank Furedi had previously claimed in an op-ed for Politico in 2022 that the purpose of the think tank was to “provide an alternative” for Europe’s “polarized cultural landscape.”

Orban, who has repeatedly found himself at odds with other EU leaders, also stated in December that he did not wish for Hungary to leave the EU behind, but instead intends to “take Brussels” when Budapest assumes the rotating presidency of the EU Council from Belgium later this year. During the presidency, Orban said he hopes to convince as many member states as possible that Hungary’s insistence on standing by its ideals and values is the “right” way to do things.

Nevertheless, on Thursday, the Hungarian leader lifted his veto on the EU’s €50 billion ($54 billion) package of economic aid to Ukraine, claiming that he had been “blackmailed” by Brussels into accepting the deal after months of resistance. 

Orban has described Ukraine as “one of the most corrupt countries in the world,” and opposed giving it any money out of the EU budget without oversight. Brussels, however, threatened to launch a financial blockade against Hungary if it did not back the deal, Orban explained.

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