Conservative leaders to talk 'family values' at Hungary summit

Budapest (AFP) –


Former US vice president Mike Pence and other conservative leaders are expected to attend a forum in Budapest from Thursday to discuss demographics and family values, cementing Hungary's reputation as a bastion of conservatism in the EU.

In power since 2010, nationalist Hungarian premier Viktor Orban has styled himself as an "illiberal" defender of "Christian Europe" who frequently clashes with Brussels over his anti-migration and anti-LGBTQ policies.

First held in 2015, the so-called Budapest Demographic Summit takes place every two years to rail against migration and urge Christian couples to have more children.

Attending this week's two-day event -- besides Pence and Orban -- are the heads of state of the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia and Serbia, as well as far-right pundit Eric Zemmour, who is thought to be eyeing a run for the French presidency.

"I find that Viktor Orban has understood the evolution of the world... and defends the identity of his country and therefore that of Europe," Zemmour told CNews channel -- derided by critics as a "French Fox News" -- on Tuesday.

At the last forum in 2019, Orban told international politicians, religious figures and diplomats that migration was contributing to "population displacement", using a loaded term used in extreme-right wing circles.

Earlier that year, Orban announced a package of financial incentives to increase birth rates, including a lifetime tax break for women bearing four or more children.

- 'Open arms' -

Gabor Gyori of Budapest-based think tank Policy Solutions said Orban welcomed "with open arms" politicians and other influencers who were becoming increasingly right-wing and could "no longer find allies within the European conservative mainstream".

Last month, conservative US television host Tucker Carlson -- one of the Fox network's most popular commentators -- broadcast a week from Hungary, lavishing praise on Orban.

In an interview with Carlson, Orban warned against "interference" in next year's parliamentary elections, which are expected to be a tight race and could see his ouster.

"Obviously the international left will do everything that they can do, probably even more, to change the government here in Hungary," he said.

The 58-year-old Hungarian's anti-immigration policies, such as building border fences, also earned him praise from US ex-president Donald Trump who Orban called "a great friend of Hungary".

On the other hand, tensions between Hungary and its EU partners boiled over in June, this time over a controversial law adopted by the Hungarian parliament banning the "promotion" of homosexuality to minors.

Last week, Orban accused the EU of not approving his government's post-coronavirus recovery spending plan due to the row over LGBTQ rights.

The EU insists that its appraisal of the recovery plan does not involve the LGBTQ law and that the delay is due to shortcomings by Hungary on anti-corruption commitments and guarantees on the independence of the courts.