Since the fall of the Roman Empire, both Byzantium, Charlemagne, the German Emperor Otto, Napoleon and Hitler have for various reasons dreamed of restoring an empire. That is also the case with the EU today, says Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

In the statement from Orbán, which fell during an opening speech at the cultural event ActiCity in Veszprém on Friday, the Hungarian prime minister pointed out that the ambition for an “ever closer union” is written in the preamble to the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, which applies to all member states, writes Der Spiegel.

The ideas of empire and of independent nations coexist, says Orbán, who, according to Magyar Nezmet, believes this makes talking about Europe a difficult job.

“If we are lucky, we will find a balance between national sovereignty and European self-awareness,” pointed out the prime minister, who said the EU was founded with two purposes: peace and prosperity.

What is the European Union if it cannot fulfil its original purpose? Orbán asked, according to the Hungarian newspaper.

The Hungarian opposition leader Ferenc Gyurcsàny reacted violently to the statement by the prime minister.

“This man is sick,” he comments. Mentioning Hitler together with the EU is a “sick, disgusting thought”, writes Gyurcsàny on Facebook.

Relations between Brussels and Budapest have been stormy throughout most of Orbán’s long reign and the speech in Veszprém is unlikely to dampen the mood. Nazism is far more taboo as a topic in Western Europe than in the Central European countries.

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