Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. © AFP
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, known for his tough stance on the refugee crisis, has been awarded the ‘Man of the Year’ award at an economic forum in Poland for his impact on shaping Central European policy.
The ‘Man of the Year’ award, considered to be the most prestigious accolade presented during the Economic Forum in the Polish southern resort town of Krynica-Zdroj, was handed to Orban by Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.
The Hungarian PM said that the Visegard Group - which consists of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - could become a driving force behind EU reform following the UK’s decision to leave the bloc.
“I am of the opinion that the Visegard Group is a very good forum in which to germinate ideas and to then take them to a European level,” Orban said at the event.
Earlier, the Hungarian PM also vowed to start a “cultural counter-revolution” within the union and to pursue a radically different vision of the EU, as he spoke during a panel discussion he hosted together with the leader of the ruling Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
“Brexit is a fantastic opportunity for us. We are at a historic cultural moment,” Orban said, adding that “there is a possibility of a cultural counter-revolution right now.”
No European identity could replace national ones
Speaking at the forum, Orban again criticized the EU’s handling of the refugee crisis. He said that the unending influx of refugees and migrants leads to the “elimination” of “historical identities.”
Those who come to Europe have much stronger identities than Europeans and increasingly create isolated cultural “islands” in European societies, Orban said, as reported by Hungary’s MTI news agency.
The Hungarian PM also emphasized that EU members should separately preserve their traditional national and religious identities, adding that no broad European identity could effectively replace national ones.
“The stronger national identities are, the stronger we can become in the coming years,” Orban said, stressing that “nation and Christianity” are key values and indispensable parts of European culture and identities which should be defended, MTI reports.
"Only those nations that have their historic, religious and national identity will survive and be strong," Orban said, as quoted by AP. "I represent and protect that."
The leader also promoted the idea of “economic patriotism,” stressing the importance of domestic state and private ownership in Hungary’s “key sectors” of the economy such as the media, banking, energy and retail.
The annual Krynica Economic Forum is attended by politicians, businesspeople and economists, and is expected to host 3,000 people this year. Its ‘Man of the Year’ accolade was previously awarded to Pope John Paul II, prominent Polish politician Lech Walesa, and the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk – who was earlier Poland’s prime minister.
Away from the forum, Hungary plans to build a second fence on its border with Serbia to prevent more migrants from entering the country. The new barrier is designed to “ensure” that they will not be able to cross into Hungary, Orban said, adding that 3,000 more soldiers will be sent to guard the border.
“Then if it does not work with nice words, we will have to stop them with force, and we will do so,” Orban said in late August. At the same time, Orban also proposed increased European cooperation on security issues during his August meeting with his Czech counterpart, Bohuslav Sobotka, stressing that the EU “lost its adaptability, and we have no right answer to migration and terrorism.”