Viktor Orbán was once seen in the Brussels bubble as a bad boy, a political hooligan who is foolishly attempting to challenge an unbreakable political correctness.
Years have passed and he showed true staying power as the tide turned. Orbán’s ideas remained unbreakable while the political correctness is put into question. These days, more and more EU leaders imitate Orbán, who is not only becoming mainstream but appears to be the only visionary in Europe.
Orbán moves to jail NGOs for helping migrants? Italy is close to that, under the new government: the new interior minister Mateo Salvini calls NGOs “illegal smugglers”.
Orbán wanted camps for migrants outside the EU? In the EPP, this idea is becoming mainstream.
Orban wanted to deport all illegal migrants? This is in the programme of the new Italian government, and very likely in the electoral platforms of political forces across Europe.
Germany’s CSU leaders and Austria’s Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz are true fans of Orban, who is not shy of extending public support to his allies in Slovenia and FYROM in the manner of a true political patron.
Orbán pushed back the migrants? The Commission has stopped saying that pushbacks are illegal and keeps its eyes wide shut when refugees are stopped and sent back by Libyan or Tunisian coastguards, sponsored by EU governments.
In April 2012, Orban told a public event in Brussels his country was a “laboratory for Europe”, suggesting that what today appears controversial in Hungary, would tomorrow become the norm for the rest of the EU.
This website asked Orban then whether he was suggesting that Europe should be “Orbanized”. In his answer, he referred to his long history as a politician. Today’s ‘Viktator’(sic) was a youth anti-Communist leader and the founder of a centre-right political force.
“I know what democracy means, I know what political competition is because this is the key of my political success as well. Then you can be sure that when Hungary makes any laboratory progress for the European Union, it is on [the basis of] political competition and democracy,” he said, speaking in English in a very relaxed way.
With hindsight, this answer appears visionary.
After Angela Merkel, Orbán is the longest-serving EU prime minister, with the second largest number of EU summits attended (10 less than the German Chancellor).
But unlike Merkel, he is likely to stay at the helm much longer – he’s making plans for another 20 years. Orban knows how to be re-elected. If at some point some believed that he was a burden to the EPP, now many see that he is, in fact, a big asset.