On Orbán’s ‘race mixing’ comments, Brussels stays quiet

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The European Commission on Tuesday declined to wade into the controversy brewing over Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s controversial remarks denouncing “mixed race” nations.

Citing a policy that the Commission never comments on such political speeches, spokesman Eric Mamer sidestepped any direct response to a speech Orbán made on Saturday in Romania, where the far-right prime minister argued that countries where European and non-European people mingle “are no longer nations” and boasted that Hungary is “not mixed race.”

The comments have sparked condemnation from European politicians and Jewish religious groups. But Mamer stayed out of the fray.

“What is clear, as you know very well, is that we never comment on what European politicians say,” he told reporters at a midday briefing.

Instead, Mamer pointed to the values the EU lists in its founding treaties, such as the protection of human rights, including the right not to be discriminated against based on racial or ethnic origin.

“What is clear is that the European Union has a number of values that are enshrined in the treaties and it implements policies that are in line with these values and these articles of the treaty,” he added. “That is all I can say on the subject.”

Over the past decade, the Hungarian government has often been at odds with EU institutions, which have accused Orbán and his officials of undermining democracy and the rule of law in Hungary.

The Commission is currently withholding billions in pandemic relief funds from Hungary, insisting Budapest first adopt reforms to its judicial system and contract-bidding process. Brussels is also threatening to cut back regular EU budget payments to Budapest over rule-of-law concerns.

At the same time, Orbán has irked European leaders by developing a close relationship with the Kremlin. Most recently, he sought to water down some sanctions against Russia.

In his speech this past weekend, the Hungarian leader prompted more ire with his proclamation that migration had split the West and Europe into two types of countries.

“In the Carpathian Basin, we are not mixed race,” Orbán said, referring to a region shared by Romania and Hungary. “We are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become mixed race.”