US media is reporting on the imminent opening of the new Brussels office of the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC), a Hungarian education facility backed by the regime of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. According to a POLITICO report, Hungarian critics say the MCC office will establish “an anti-EU, far-right political powerhouse in Brussels:”
November 1, 2022 A think tank funded by illiberal Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is set to disrupt the Brussels chin-stroking scene when it launches this month — provoking a fierce backlash from detractors back home. MCC Brussels — an arm of the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC), a Budapest-based college that has controversially received billions of forints from Orbán’s government — plans to “provide an alternative” for Europe’s “polarized cultural landscape,” according to one of its founders. The center — backed by Hungary’s right-wing, EU-confrontational government — will shake up a think tank ecosystem in Brussels currently dominated by largely homogeneous, pro-European thought. In an op-ed for POLITICO published Tuesday, Hungarian-Canadian academic and director of the new think tank, Frank Furedi, said he wants to promote “mature, thoughtful discussion about the cultural tensions that prevail on the Continent,” arguing that since Orbán’s reelection in April, anti-Hungarian sentiment has been on the rise. Furedi — who will lead the center along with the University of Dresden’s Werner Patzelt as research director — added in his op-ed that, “Hungary is hated by the West’s culture warriors for the simple reason that it dares to question their post-traditionalist, identity-politics-fueled world view.” But there was an immediate backlash from critics of Orbán’s government, which has been at loggerheads with the EU for years over issues including backsliding on the rule of law and LGBTQ+ rights. István Ujhelyi, a Hungarian opposition MEP from the Socialists & Democrats group, told POLITICO that the think tank move is in line with the “strategic build-up that Fidesz [Orbán’s ruling party] has been doing for a long time aimed at creating an anti-EU, far-right political powerhouse in Brussels.” He added that “it is a pity that MCC has become a tool in this.” Katalin Cseh, a member of Hungary’s opposition Momentum party, also joined the chorus of criticism. She said Fidesz has invested a lot in creating an “alt-right intellectual universe around their policies,” with a range of “Trumpian American celebrities” coming to Budapest — plus a special session of the United States’ Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) being hosted in the Hungarian capital earlier this year.
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The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported on the standing ovation received by Orbán at the August CPAC conference in Dallas, Texas.
A GIOR report on the Global National Conservative alliance explained the role of the MCC in the Orbán government’s struggle to control Hungarian higher education and to create a platform for rightwing figures. The report also detailed the potential role of the National Conservatives in Russian influence operations:
The MATHIAS CORVINUS COLLEGIUM, a Hungarian educational facility, is a key part of the ORBÁN government’s struggle to control Hungarian higher education and is the center of National Conservative activity in the country. This facility, funded by a massive gift of stock from the ORBÁN government, has sponsored events and teaching positions for prominent US right-wing figures. Russia has already begun to employ National Conservative themes in its influence operations which will likely find a more receptive Western audience than in the past. Hungary is particularly fertile ground for Russian exploitation of National Conservatism given the existing close relationship between Russian and Hungarian elites and an extensive pre-existing Russian influence network.
Read the full report here
The GIOR reported last week that the MCC Brussels center director Frank Furedi is a contributor to RT, the Russian propaganda outlet. We also reported on the role played by the MCC in disseminating Russian-style anti-LGBTQ propaganda and its use of foreign Western “experts” in that effort.