Germany ‘no longer smells the same’, says Orban

Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister
Viktor Orban says Germany used to be a nation of 'order' - SILAS STEIN/AFP

Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, said Germany “no longer smells the same” in an apparent jibe at migration as he visited Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, in Berlin.

Before he met with Mr Scholz, Mr Orban told a Hungarian radio station: “[Germany] no longer tastes the same as it used to, it no longer smells the same as it used to, this whole Germany is no longer the Germany that our grandparents and parents used as an example for us.”

He also said that Germany used to be a nation of “order”, “well-organised work” and “hard-working people”. According to Die Welt, a German newspaper, he claimed that Germany is now “a colourful, changed, multicultural world” where migrants are “no longer guests...that is a very big change”.

His comments soured an already tense visit as Berlin and other EU leaders grow increasingly uncomfortable with Mr Orban’s blossoming relationship with Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader.

Mr Orban is also accused of eroding democracy in Hungary and becoming increasingly distant from the Brussels consensus on key issues, notably support for Ukraine and migration.

Migration surge in Germany

Germany is struggling with a major surge in irregular migration, which prompted the government to introduce additional border controls in 2023. It has also become a volatile political issue, fuelling the success of the far-Right AfD in the European elections earlier in June.

Mr Orban made the controversial remarks ahead of a meeting in Berlin with Mr Scholz to discuss his nation’s assumption of the EU council presidency, which rotates between EU member states.

Unusually, Mr Orban is not taking part in a joint press conference with Mr Scholz which is the custom for visiting allies.

Mr Scholz has announced plans to set up a system of processing migrants and asylum seekers in third countries which may take inspiration from the UK’s Rwanda scheme, or Italy’s migration deal with Albania.

This week, he came under pressure from German state leaders to speed up the process of choosing a model because of rising migration levels and the growing popularity of the far-Right in Germany. Experts say such a plan would face significant legal and practical hurdles in the country.