The conservative group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is currently holding its seminar in Budapest, Hungary. On this occasion, which Deputy Group Leader of the Fidesz Parliamentary Group Zsolt Németh dubbed nothing short of ‘historic’ at the event, a press conference was organised on Friday, 3 June. Mr Németh, Justice Minister of Hungary Judit Varga, and British Group Leader in the Council of Europe Ian Liddell-Grainger briefed the press about the initiative at Hotel InterContinental Budapest on the bank of River Danube.
Mr Németh shared his optimistic views about the future of conservatism in Europe, claiming that right-wingers on the continent are ‘coming closer together’; and that the currently ongoing event in Budapest could have the slogan ‘conservatives of Europe, unite!’. He also expressed confidence that the conservative candidates will be doing well in next year’s EU parliamentary election, set to take place in June 2024. He believes this is partly due to the rejection of wokeism.
Minister Varga took the floor next, and spoke about the two major themes covered in the seminar so far: migration and family policy. About the former, she said it is an issue that right-wingers in Europe are united on; with Hungary spearheading the movement to curtail the wave of illegal migrants back in 2015 when their first wave hit the old continent. She also stated that
Hungary has a ‘recipe on how to successfully fight migration’,
as evidenced by the fact the Hungarian border guards managed to stop 270,000 attempts of illegal border crossing just last year. That is despite the fact that, in Minister Varga’s opinion, the EU Commission still believes that large-scale immigration into Europe is a positive thing.
The presence of Mr Liddell-Grainger did need some clarification, as he is from the United Kingdom which left the European Union back in 2019. However, as he explained, while his home country did leave the EU, ‘it did not leave Europe’, and remains an active participant in the affairs of the Council of Europe—something Mr Németh had alluded to as well earlier. Mr Liddell-Grainger also believes that conservatism is growing stronger, in fact,
it is ‘speaking for the majority of the people in Europe’.
To back up this claim of his, he cited that the conservative group (European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance (EC/DA) in the Council of Europe went from having just 16 members to 120 members in the past few years.
In terms of the European Union, he lamented the way EU institutions tend to treat Hungary, a country that is at the forefront of the fight to advance conservative values in Europe.
On this note, the three politicians were asked about the concerns over the upcoming Hungarian Council presidency, set to take place in the second half of 2024, recently raised by liberal Members of the European Parliament. To this, Minister Varga had this to say in response:
‘Hungary has already performed a very successful and professionally managed presidency back in 2011…We were able to run, only after a couple of years of membership, a very successful presidency. We will have already 20 years of European membership experience [by next year], we have already prepared the structure with human resources, with all the professionalism, and we are in a constant, daily-basis contact with the Secretary General of the Council.
Our priorities will be those issues we believe are of utmost importance for the future of the continent. These are competitiveness, for example, and the demographic challenge, that we would like to put on the table…This is a fact: we are facing an ageing continent…This will be very, very important on our agenda. Also, the future of cohesion policies will be one of the priorities…
Hungary is going to be an honest broker, as it was in 2011.’