Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban launched his European elections campaign on Sunday, calling on voters to defend “Christian” nations against immigration, which he said led to the “virus of terrorism”.
Delivering a “state of the nation” speech in the capital, Budapest, Orban also announced a seven-point package of tax breaks and subsidies to encourage families to have more children – a move he called “Hungary’s answer” to its falling population, instead of increasing immigration.
The benefits include a lifetime personal income-tax exemption for women who give birth to and raise at least four children and a subsidy of 2.5 million forints ($8,825) towards the purchase of a seven-seat vehicle for families with three or more children.
A low-interest loan of 10 million forints ($35,300) for women under the age of 40 who are marrying for the first time will also be introduced.
Orban, who has made “zero tolerance” for immigration his main theme over the past four years and was elected to a third consecutive term as prime minister in April of last year, also said May’s elections for the European Parliament were an “historic crossroads” for Europe.
He framed the vote as a choice between the “new internationalism” of pro-migration Brussels bureaucrats under the sway of “money men”, such as liberal US billionaire George Soros, and sovereign nation-states defending tradition and Christianity.
He also warned against voting for pro-immigration parties.
Those who “decide for immigration and migrants for whatever reason, in reality, are creating mixed-race nations”, he said.
Referring several times to Hungary’s abandoning of communism in 1989, he said Hungarians were again confronted with “those who would wipe out our traditions and nation states”.
He added: “Historic traditions in immigrant countries come to an end … in such countries Christian-Muslim worlds are created with continually shrinking Christian proportions.”
Orban, who has emerged as a self-styled “illiberal” figurehead for nationalist politicians in Europe, added that “immigration brings increased crime, especially crimes against women, and lets in the virus of terrorism”.
Announcing his seven-point programme, Orban ruled out any move to tackle Europe’s declining birth numbers with higher immigration as “capitulation”.
“We don’t just want numbers, we want Hungarian babies,” he said.
Hungary’s population has fallen below 10 million in recent years and it has one of the lowest fertility rates in the OECD. An estimated 500,000 Hungarians, meanwhile, have emigrated to Western Europe since it joined the European Union in 2004.
Several hundred members and supporters of Hungary’s main opposition parties held an anti-Orban rally in Budapest following the Hungarian leader’s speech.
The event also was aimed at protesting against recent heavy fines the state audit office imposed on several opposition parties.
Opposition leaders allege the fines, which cannot be challenged in Hungarian courts, are politically motivated and intended to hinder their campaigns for the European Parliament and municipal elections in Hungary later this year.