As the clouds over the European economy get headlines on business pages, the social unease spreading through the continent provides more troubling news. In France, Switzerland, and Austria, right-wing parties known for racist and nationalist platforms have gained ground. Germany’s neo-Nazis are seeing a renaissance as well. In Greece, a soccer player was banned for a Nazi salute. But nowhere in Europe has a nascent fascist movement made greater inroads than in Hungary.
Flying under the radar, the Jobbik party has staked a hold on the hearts, minds, and Facebook pages of Hungarian youth. Sadly, it’s not just the possibility of secession from the European Union that’s attracting followers: Jobbik scapegoats Jews and ethnic Roma. The party won 17 percent of the Hungarian Parliament in 2010 and has only gained ground since.
The European Union’s Parliament has roundly criticized Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for not speaking out against extremist riots, rallies, and speeches, while reports of violence against ethnic minorities increase. Despite Orban’s insistence at the recent 2013 World Jewish Congress that his government is not anti-Semitic, and that he will not tolerate hate, his actions suggest otherwise. He has failed to establish a strict line between his center-right Fidesz party and the far-right Jobbik, and he has been reluctant to take on its policies.
At a rally in Budapest this month, speakers claimed that Zionists are colonizing Hungary. In November, a Jobbik member of Parliament called for Jews in Hungary to be put on lists, saying they are a “security risk.” Orban must move swiftly to convince the public that he can curb the growth of anti-Semitism. And the United States and EU should put more pressure on leaders in Hungary and other countries to combat political extremism while Europe tries to regain its economic footing.