The president of the European Council has launched a robust attack on the prime minister of Hungary, accusing him of tolerating xenophobia, nationalism and antisemitism while undermining liberal democracy.

Without specifically naming Viktor Orban, Donald Tusk warned “no one has the right, at least in our political family, to attack liberal democracy and its foundations”.

The criticism was a reference to comments by Mr Orban this year that he had “replaced a shipwrecked liberal democracy with a 21st-century Christian democracy” in his country.

But Mr Tusk listed attacks on the rule of law by Mr Orban’s government and declared: “You are not a Christian Democrat”.

Mr Orban’s Fidesz party sits in the same centre-right EU grouping as Mr Tusk and most mainstream European conservatives, but there is increasing pressure to expel the Hungarian party after its years of attacks on the rule of law.

“I want to say it very bluntly: no one has the right, at least in our political family, to attack liberal democracy and its foundations. We cannot agree with an argument that the effective protection of the European border, of our territory and identity, means to defy the rules of liberal democracy,” the European Council president told the congress of the European People’s Party (EPP) in Helsinki.

“Let me be absolutely clear: if you are against the rule of law and independent judiciary, you are not a Christian Democrat. If you don’t like the free press and the NGOs, if you tolerate xenophobia, homophobia, nationalism and antisemitism, you are not a Christian Democrat.

“If you place the state and the nation against the freedom and dignity of an individual, you are not a Christian Democrat. If you wish for conflict and divisions globally and inside the European Union, you are not a Christian Democrat. If you support Putin and attack Ukraine, if you are in favour of the aggressor and against the victim, you are not a Christian Democrat.”

He continued: “If you want to replace the western order of liberal democracy with an eastern model of authoritarian democracy, you are not a Christian Democrat. Dear friends, I would like to believe that all of us here would like to remain faithful to the true ideas of true Christian democracy. 

“We all want to win the upcoming elections, but let us remember that at stake in these elections are not benefits and jobs but the protection of our fundamental values. Because without them, our victory will make no sense.”

Mr Orban, who was attending the conference and sitting to one side of Mr Tusk during the speech, looked glum throughout most of the president’s address.

Earlier in the day, the Hungarian prime minister addressed the hall, telling delegates he wanted to “restore the unity of the EPP family”.

“Let us never trust those who build personal ambitions on dividing our EPP family with socialist and liberal accusations. For the sake of victory, let us get back to our spiritual roots and let us proclaim the renaissance of Christian democracy,” he said.

“Let us not listen to our opponents and not measure ourselves by the standards of the leftists’ parties and the liberal media. If we want to please them, we condemn ourselves to defeat. Instead we have to walk our own way. We shall cherish our successes. Those who do not honour their own champions pave the fastest tracks to failure.”

Mr Orban’s government has been accused of waging an antisemitic hate campaign against Jewish financier George Soros, of undermining the academic freedom of universities in the country, and of targeting NGOs and journalists favourable to migrants. Amnesty International has described the roll-back of human rights in the country as “alarming”.

The European Parliament in September voted by a two-thirds majority to trigger Article 7 of the EU treaties against Hungary in light of Mr Orban’s conduct. Most mainstream European conservatives supported the measure or abstained, with the UK Conservative party isolated in voting to back Mr Orban.

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