Fidesz supporters hold "anti-racist" protest in Budapest

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Some 2,000 Fidesz supporters gathered in front of the 7th District Mayor's Office in Budapest late last Thursday to protest against comments made by district mayor Péter Niedermüller.

The protest was called by Fidesz co-founder and media personality Zsolt Bayer, who called on Fidesz supporters to "Say no to racism" at the demonstration.

Attendees were outraged at comments made by Niedermüller on a television program several days prior, in which the mayor attempted to describe the exclusionary nature of the government's family policy.

"If we look at what remains after taking away those people we hate - non-Hungarians, others, migrants, Roma, whoever - then there will be a terrifying formation in the middle: these white, Christian, heterosexual men, and women among them. This is the family concept," Niedermüller told ATV.

The statement stirred passions among Fidesz supporters, who mobilized "against racism and hatred". Among the self-described anti-racists giving speeches at the event were protest organizer Zsolt Bayer, Fidesz MP and former government spokesman István Hollik, and leader of Fidesz's youth wing Fidelitas Boglárka Illés.

Earlier in the day, a dead rat was sent to Niedermüller's office by a fascist group associated with radical right-wing party Mi Hazánk Mozgalom. The mayor's name was written on the rat's body.

Several assaults occurred during the protest: HVG journalist András Hont was pushed and his glasses taken by right-wing provocateur Zsolt Bede (who was reportedly later questioned by police). journalist Dániel Ács was also physically aggressed, and a counter-protester was assaulted. 

EU border agency ignored reports of migrant abuse

The European Union's external border agency Frontex ignored repeated reports of physical abuse of migrants by Hungarian authorities at the Hungarian-Serbian border, according to a report by Apostolis Fotiadis of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.

Organizations like the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee warned Frontex of alleged human rights abuses committed against asylum seekers and migrants by Hungarian authorities, and also pointed out that Hungary had likely violated international law by summarily expelling asylum seekers to the Serbian side of its southern border.

According to documents obtained by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, Frontex was aware of the allegations which included reports of dogs being released on groups of migrants, some of them children between the ages of 10-17, as well as beatings and use of pepper spray by Hungarian authorities. 

The reported abuses spurred internal disagreements within Frontex over the agency's role in assisting Hungary in its border control operations. Frontex’s Consultative Forum, an advisory body meant to oversee the agency’s compliance with human rights standards, recommended that the agency cease its operations on the Hungarian-Serbian border in response to concern over abuses. The recommendation also came in response to changes in Hungarian law which allowed for "irregular migrants" intercepted within an 8 km strip along the border to be brought to a transit zone and summarily expelled to Serbia. 

“Operational support at the Hungarian-Serbian border must be contingent upon Frontex being satisfied that people arriving at that border are duly registered by Hungarian authorities, given access to an individualised procedure and to asylum, if they so wish, are not summarily returned to Serbia, and that instances of police abuse and violence are investigated in an independent and impartial manner,” the Forum wrote. 

However, those recommendations and advice given by Frontex's own Fundamental Rights Officer were ignored by Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri, who wrote that “the alleged cases of illegitimate use of force by Hungarian police, if confirmed, did not occur within the operational activities coordinated by Frontex”.

MSF alerted Leggeri in April 2017 that its doctors had treated 106 cases of "intentional injuries" suffered by asylum seekers in less than one year. The injuries, they reported, were consistent with kickings, beatings with fists or batons, bites by police dogs and inflammation caused by teargas or pepper spray. Of the 106 cases, 22 of the alleged victims were minors. 

Frontex said that Hungarian authorities had investigated the reported incidents and found that none of them were credible based on evidence. 

Still, a fact-finding visit by Frontex's own Fundamental Rights Officer in 2017 concluded that “the risk for shared responsibility of the agency in the violation of fundamental rights” remains “very high”. 

Szijjártó praises Trump Middle-East plan after Kushner meeting

Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó met with President Donald Trump's son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner in the White House on Wednesday where the two men discussed the recently-released US "peace plan" for the Middle East.

Szijjártó told Hungarian newswire MTI that the plan has the potential to create long-term peace and stability in the region.

"New impetus is required within the field of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to enable the Middle Eastern peace process to gain renewed strength," Szijjártó said. "This is also extremely important from the perspective of European security, and within it Hungarian security."

The foreign minister said the proposal corresponds to Hungary's three fundamental principles: a fair and balanced approach must be applied with relation to Israel; the so-called two-state solution must be achieved via direct negotiations; and the fight against terrorism must be continued.

Palestinian officials immediately rejected the plan, which Trump had called "the deal of the century". Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas announced he will soon address the United Nations Security Council on his rejection of the plan, calling it "the slap of the century". 

While in Washington, D.C., Szijjártó also met with former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

Tusk: I don't see Fidesz returning to EPP

Leaders of the European People's Party agreed to indefinitely extend Fidesz's suspension from the group during its annual assembly in Brussels on Monday. EPP president Donald Tusk told the assembly that while Fidesz would not be expelled, he saw little chance of "visible improvement" in the party's conduct. 

“If the situation does not change, I cannot see Fidesz returning to our family, at least as long as I am the president of the EPP,” Tusk said at the closed-door meeting. 

Fidesz was suspended from the EPP in March 2019 over rule of law concerns and anti-Brussels rhetoric, and a three-member commission of "wise men" was sent by the EPP to assess Fidesz's compatibility with the group's values. That commission was reportedly unable to reach a consensus on how to proceed, resulting in the extension of Fidesz's suspension.

Tusk reportedly proposed a special congress on the issue of Fidesz's membership at a later date, and said that the EPP needed a period of "deep reflection". Tusk added that there would be “no redefinition of our fundamental values”.

Some members reportedly worried that expelling Fidesz would deprive the EPP of votes in the European Parliament, and could push Fidesz into the arms of other, more nationalist groupings on the European stage. 

On the same day that the EPP agreed to extend Fidesz's suspension, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was in Rome ahead of the National Conservatism Conference, where he spoke with Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, president of the right-wing Brothers of Italy Giorgia Meloni, and Italy’s former prime minister and the leader of Forza Italia Silvio Berlusconi. He later met with former Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. 

Speaking at the conference in Rome on Tuesday, Orbán said he wanted to incite a "conservative counter-revolution" within the EPP to prevent it from giving up its values and moving to the center. Orbán said this counter-revolution has not yet been successful, but expressed his hopes that this would soon change. 

Addressing migration, Orbán said that there is "not a single muslim migrant in Hungary", which he contrasted with conditions in Western Europe where he said the proportion of muslims is growing while that of Christians is shrinking. 

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