Hungary’s nationalist premier Viktor Orban has warned of the likely need for two stimulus packages to boost the country’s economy during the next year.
Speaking in neighbouring Romania on Saturday, Mr Orban said: “In the last five years the EU has been self-destructing as far as the economy is concerned . . . According to every analysis, hard times are coming upon us and the question is not if they will be difficult, but how difficult they will be.”
Mr Orban said the coalition between Germany’s Christian Democratic Union and the Green party was to blame for the potential contraction of the Hungarian economy. More than one-third of the country’s industrial output is connected to the German auto manufacturing industry and Mr Orban said the “most important” thing for Hungary is to plan a “new route” for 2020 and 2021 away from its reliance on Germany’s car industry.
The negative outlook comes despite the fact that Hungary’s economic growth rate of 5.3 per cent in the first quarter was the highest in the EU.
Karen Vartapetov, S&P’s director of sovereign credit ratings, said: “Hungary’s economy will inevitably soften given ongoing moderation in Europe. And this will face the government with a dilemma of how to sustain currently remarkable growth momentum.”
Mr Orban also attacked outgoing president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and said he hoped under new president Ursula von der Leyen that the EU would “return to its role set forth in the treaties and stop being political activists”.
The EU Council “has no political role and should not launch political attacks as the Juncker cabinet did,” he added.
Mr Orban, who said Hungary successfully scuppered the incoming commission presidencies of “ideological guerillas” Frans Timmermans and Manfred Weber, will meet Ms von der Leyen in Brussels on August 1.
Budapest has repeatedly clashed with Brussels over its hardline anti-migration agenda. On Thursday, the commission announced it would take Hungary to the European Court of Justice over laws that make it a criminal offence to help refugees. On the same day, the commission announced it was initiating infringement proceedings against Hungary for its practice of denying food to asylum seekers refused protection.
In his speech, Mr Orban also reiterated his intention to remain in power for at least another decade.
“Our mission for the following 15 years and for the following generation is to oppose this internationalist liberalism,” he said, saying he preferred an “illiberal” approach in which “individual freedom cannot superscribe the interests of the community, of the society” and “Christian democracy”.
Zselyke Csaky of the US-based watchdog Freedom House said with this speech Mr Orban “made clear that he wants to keep the role of ideological leader for the anti-liberal group in Europe.”