Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán accused European leaders of acting like “colonialists” in their criticism of his controversial law on homosexuality.
Speaking on public radio, the prime minister rebuked cries to repeal the law and hit back at his fellow European Council members.
“They behave like colonialists. They want to dictate what laws should take effect in another country, they want to tell us how to live our lives and how to behave,” he said.
Orbán continued to say that the law’s critiques were “bad reflexes caused by their European colonialist past”.
The country’s right-wing government, which will face an election next year, argue the legislation is essential to make sure that the sexual education of children under the age of 18 is under the control of their parents.
Leaders challenged Orbán during a summit in Brussels last week over the law, which critics and politicians alike have said limits the rights of LGBT people in Hungary.
The law bans “display or promotion” of homosexuality or gender reassignment in television programmes, films and sexual education resources in schools.
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte suggested the Hungarian leader should uphold the values of the European Union, or leave the bloc.
Ursula von der Leyen has also been vocal in the nation’s politics, calling the law “a shame” before penning a letter to Hungary demanding clarification over the law’s impact on fundamental human rights.
The heads of 17 EU countries have also signed a joint letter condemning the legislation and pushed for the European Commission to take Hungary to the European Court of Justice over the issue.
The media has now expressed similar criticism. Several leading European newspapers have refused to run a paid advertisement signed by Orbán, stating that they do not want to give space to a politician who they believe limits human rights and press freedom.
The one-page ad in question accuses Brussels of building a “super-state”, denounces the “European Empire”, calls for the strengthening of national parliaments and standing up to European integration projects.
Herman Grech, editor in chief of The Times of Malta, who decided against running the ad, said that Orbán’s administration had “declared war on Hungary’s free press.” He continued: “We will not sit idly by as he takes advantage of it elsewhere.”
Joining Grech was Belgian newspaper De Standaard, who also refused to run the ad. In its place, they ran their own full-page ad sporting rainbow colours with the caption “Dear Viktor Orbán, laws should never distinguish love from love”.
Karel Verhoeven, editor-in-chief of the paper, said the law was “a blatant violation of human rights”.