The Hungarian government has been under constant, and often undue, scrutiny by the European Union for the past few years. In fact, there are politicians sitting in Brussels who seem to have made the toppling of the Orbán administration the focus of their professional lives. We have collected the worst offenders when it comes to Hungarophobia in this piece.
The Orbán-Maniac — Guy Verhofstadt
For those closely following European politics in recent years, it should come as no surprise that former Belgian Prime Minister and MEP Guy Verhofstadt has topped the list. Countless times in recent years, Viktor Orbán has faced unwarranted provocation from him. Most recently, Verhofstadt expressed displeasure over Hungary receiving its due share of EU funds.
Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, he has repeatedly referred to the Hungarian prime minister as ‘Putin’s puppet’ and even attempted to strip Viktor Orbán of his voting rights. Although Verhofstadt won’t seek re-election to the European Parliament in 2024, his anti-Hungarian sentiments will undoubtedly persist within the parliament.
Scandalous decision by @EU_Commission to liberate €10 billion for Hungary… signalling that blackmail beats Ukraine solidarity, good governance and EU values.— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) December 13, 2023
I withdraw my confidence in @vonderleyen and this Commission ! https://t.co/1MLXeVjul5
The Unfriendly One – Daniel Freund
To understand why the departure of Verhofstadt isn’t a significant setback for the anti-Hungarian mainstream in Brussels, one only needs to turn their attention to the next person on the list: Daniel Freund, a German politician who has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2019 and is already a seasoned figure in anti-Hungarian sentiments. Freund is notably active on the X platform (formerly Twitter), consistently sharing Hungarophobic content that portrays Viktor Orbán in a negative light.
One of the highlights of his career, as he openly acknowledges, is his role in freezing €6.3 billion in EU funding for Hungary.
When I started my mandate in the 🇪🇺Parliament 3.5 years ago, the undertaking was considered hopeless by many. Someone like Orban was unmanageable. The resistance in the Council was too big, Orban too powerful with his veto, and von der Leyen too unwilling to take action. /1 pic.twitter.com/uN0UBFKMc9— Daniel Freund (@daniel_freund) December 23, 2022
The Quack Doctor — Vera Jourová
Vera Jourová is a seasoned Brussels veteran, completing her second term as a Commissioner in the EU executive this year. The Czech politician’s current focus is on European values, transparency, and the rule of law, making Hungary a priority for her. In one of her most memorable remarks, she referred to Hungary as a ‘sick democracy’ and, in a haughty tone, stated that most Hungarian voters were incapable of forming their own opinions.
In response, Prime Minister Orbán wrote to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, calling for her resignation, though no such action has been taken since.
Following the incident, Jourová also expressed the view that the EU was ‘too correct’ towards Hungary. Similar to Verhofstadt, Jourová plans to retire from European politics in 2024.
The Defamer — Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield
French MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield serves as the head of the fact-finding delegation of the LIBE Committee and is one of the authors of the report condemning Hungary over rule of law concerns. Perhaps the most outspoken politician on the list, Delbos-Corfield went to great lengths to cast aspersions on Hungary with a notable smear in February 2023.
‘Today Hungary is a concrete threat. First, because there is one place, Budapest, where Russian influence still exists. We have known for years that government agencies and the secret services are leaking information to the Russians,’ Delbos-Corfield stated.
Despite her strong statements, the politician couldn’t provide any evidence to support her accusations. In response, Fidesz MEPs Tamás Deutsch and Kinga Gál wrote to EP President Roberta Metsola, demanding Delbos-Corfield’s resignation. However, similar to the case of Jourová, that never occurred.
The Blabbermouth — Sophie in ’t Veld
Sophie in ‘t Veld has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2004 and is among the politicians who have vigorously criticized Hungary over its migration policy and rule of law concerns. The Dutch politician is also a key figure in an EP initiative to nullify Hungary’s EU presidency. She has previously stated that ‘a government like Orbán’s cabinet is not needed in the EU.’
It was In ‘t Veld who casually asserted that the action against Hungary and Poland had nothing to do with the rule of law, emphasizing the political underpinnings of the campaign and suggesting that the two member states should be defeated by political means. Similar to Verhofstadt and Jourová, she will not be standing in the 2024 EP elections, not by choice, but because her party did not allow her to stand.
The Chameleon — Manfred Weber
Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), is a true veteran, having been a member of the European Parliament since 2004, the leader of the EPP group in the EP since 2014, and the President of the EPP since 2022. Since parting ways with Viktor Orbán in 2020, Weber has become an avid Hungarian critic, with hardly a day passing without some outrageous statement. In the summer of 2022, for instance, he remarked after a European Union summit that Viktor Orbán was one of the most foolish figures at the table. In December 2023, Weber expressed that the Hungarian PM had left the European team and joined the Russians. By the way, thanks to Politico for the nickname ‘Chameleon’. Although they used it for Giorgia Meloni, we believe it suits Manfred Weber perfectly.
The Dishonest Reporter — Judith Sargentini
There is probably no one in Hungary who does not know the name Judith Sargentini. In 2018, the Dutch politician presented her report criticizing Hungary to the EP, which led to the opening of Article 7 proceedings against Hungary. To Sargentini’s great regret, no substantive action has been taken on the case since then.
The Sargentini report is nothing more than a summary of the accusations made against Hungary by the liberal mainstream over the years.
From the functioning of the constitutional system, corruption, and conflicts of interest to freedom of expression and academic life, it accuses the Hungarian government of everything that the European left and the domestic opposition constantly chant. Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó called the whole report a collection of qualified lies. Sargentini attacked Hungary in a series of statements before and after the report.