A eurosceptic politician declared, “Drain the swamp,” warning that the corruption charges that have rocked the European Parliament might utterly destroy the organisation .
The arrest of four officials, including Greek MEP Eva Kaili, who vigorously denies any wrongdoing, on suspicion of accepting bribes from a Middle Eastern nation, largely assumed to be World Cup hosts Qatar, has left Brussels in a state of shock.
The right-wing Fidesz party leader and prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, called for the institution’s elimination during his yearly international press conference in Budapest.
The very contentious leader said: “The Hungarians would like for the European Parliament to be dissolved in its current form.
“The degree to which the reputation of the European Parliament in Hungary has been damaged by the scandal is easy to answer: not at all, because it couldn’t have been any lower.”
— Orbán Viktor (@PM_ViktorOrban) December 14, 2022
Almost exclusively throughout the three-hour meeting, Mr. Orban takes questions from the foreign press or critical Hungarian sources.
The populist leader, who was elected to a fourth consecutive term in power in April, has fought several skirmishes with the EU, which holds him responsible for widespread government corruption and for undermining democratic standards.
It was time to “drain the swamp” in Brussels, he said, using a metaphor from former American President Donald Trump. He attacked the European Parliament for the recent discoveries of a corruption scandal involving cash-for-favors.
The news conference followed a financial freeze by the EU of more than 12 billion euros for Hungary due to worries that Prime Minister Orban’s administration has suppressed judicial independence, encouraged official corruption, and restricted minority rights.
“Drain the (EU) Swamp” says Viktor Orban – https://t.co/sqjvgAuITn
— News Links News (@NewsLinksNews) December 22, 2022
The European Parliament said in September that Hungary could no longer be regarded as a democracy and that, under Orban’s leadership, it would become “a hybrid regime of electoral autocracy,” a claim that his administration strenuously denies.
The Hungarian government’s efforts to campaign against sanctions on Moscow for its involvement in the crisis in Ukraine have increased tensions between Budapest and Brussels.
In the EU27, Mr. Orban—who is considered as one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies—claims sanctions haven’t been successful in getting Moscow to cease the conflict and have instead hurt European economies more than Russia.
He continued, insisting he would oppose any more sanctions: “If it were up to us, there would not be a sanctions policy.
“It is not in our interest to permanently divide the European and Russian economies into two, so we are trying to save what can be saved from our economic cooperation with the Russians.”
In order to ensure the delivery of desperately needed EU funding, Orban has made a number of concessions, but the European Commission, the executive arm of the group, headed by President Ursula von der Leyen, has insisted on further changes if Budapest is to get the cash.
Hungary is grappling with one of the highest rates of inflation in Europe as well as a weakening currency that has driven up costs.
The forint currency was down over 10% versus the euro since the year’s beginning in November, when the inflation rate was above 22%.
According to Mr. Orban, the government has plans to get inflation down to single digits by next December and will shortly announce a scheme that would exempt women with children under the age of 30 from paying income taxes until they are 30.