Hungary’s Orban ready to ‘occupy’ Brussels to bring EU change

By Thomson Reuters Mar 15, 2024 | 7:26 AM

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday he was ready to march to Brussels and “occupy” the European Union’s centre in order to “defend Hungary’s freedom and sovereignty”, ahead of European Parliament elections later this year.

Orban, a nationalist who has been in power for 14 years, is hoping his Fidesz party will gain from a rise in far-right support across Europe and as he prepares to take over the EU’s rotating presidency for the second half of the year.

Speaking at a rally in Budapest celebrating Hungary’s national day, which commemorates the 1848 Hungarian Revolution against the Habsburg monarchy, Orban said the European elections were a chance to stand up for Hungary.

“If we want to defend Hungary’s freedom and sovereignty, we have no other choice but to occupy Brussels,” Orban told the gathering of about 1,000 of his supporters.

“We will march to Brussels and bring the change to the European Union ourselves.”

Orban has long been at odds with other EU members over a range of issues, including refusing to send weapons to Kyiv and keeping up economic ties with Moscow since Russian forces invaded Ukraine in 2022.

He said EU actions were hitting farmers, hurting the middle class, damaging companies, “and on top of all that, (taking) Europe into war”.

“We will not accept that Brussels left Europeans alone, moreover, it turned against them,” Orban said.

Budapest has also been locked in long disputes that have blocked EU funds.

Earlier this week, European Parliament lawmakers said the body would sue the EU executive for unblocking some funds to Hungary while trying to persuade the country to drop its veto on aid to Ukraine last year.

Fidesz is in talks with the eurosceptic European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) that includes Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, but will decide which European Parliament grouping to join only after the elections, Orban said late last year.

(Reporting by Anita Komuves, writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Lucy Marks)