Hungary’s Orban says he wants ‘protect Europe’. Which one?


It was striking that Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban declared that his country took as a duty the need to “protect Europe”. Mr Orban said this after he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on July 5.

As for Mrs Merkel, she didn’t say anything like that. Instead, she spoke about Europe’s obligation to help those in need.

Some might say that sentiment would be a greater protection for Europe that Mr Orban’s muscular notion of a Christian fortress-continnent.

But then the two ideas of Europe are now in direct conflict.

The ‘new Europe’ includes the central European nations, notably the Visegrad 4 grouping that includes Hungary. Also included are Austria and Italy, one of the oldest, founding members of the European project.

The fight is getting frenzied.

And it goes beyond the issue of migration.

Hans Kundnani, Senior Research Fellow on Chatham House’s Europe Programme, recently wrote an excellent analysis of the three competing ideas of Europe.

There is Mrs Merkel’s idea of market discipline for member states.

There is French president Emmanuel Macron’s idea of a ‘Europe qui protège’, or a Europe that protects. This would mean “more redistribution and risk-sharing in the Eurozone”, according to Kundani.

And finally, there is Mr Orbán’s idea of a ‘Christian’ Europe of sovereign states.

It’s interesting that the Franco-German ideas are no longer guaranteed successful adoption in Europe. Until now, Germany (along with France) might have been considered the protector of Europe. Or, at least the protector of the idea of Europe.

But overly hasty European enlargement seems to have put the brakes on that.