BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungarian and Polish leaders on Friday unveiled a memorial in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, dedicated to the victims of a 2010 plane crash in the Russian city of Smolensk that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of others top Polish officials.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s governing Law and Justice party and twin brother of the president who died in the crash, praised the memorial as a “beautiful gesture that strengthens our friendship.”
The April 10, 2010, crash that killed 96 people, including the president and the first lady, the head of the National Bank of Poland, lawmakers, top military officials and many others, is considered one of Poland’s greatest national tragedies.
Kaczynski, whose right-wing leadership is close to the nationalist and populist policies of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, urged Hungarians to vote for Orban in Sunday’s elections.
“Freedom, sovereignty and national dignity in Hungary, as well as in Poland, is associated with the name of Viktor Orban,” Kaczynski said at the ceremony held near the Danube River in southern Budapest. “You cannot think about Europe’s future, the European Union’s future, without thinking about Viktor Orban, about Fidesz.”
Orban and Kaczynski frequently complain about what they see as meddling by the EU leadership in their national affairs. A dispute over changes in Poland’s court system seen curtailing judicial independence has triggered for the first time an EU sanctioning procedure, Article 7, which could strip Poland of its voting rights within the bloc.
“This path is not against Europe,” Kaczynski said, emphasizing the importance of the sovereignty of nation states. “It shows Europe the right way and (Orban’s) role in it is enormous.”
Orban, whose re-election campaign is heavily based on anti-migration policies, said it was up to the two countries to keep Central Europe “national and Christian.”
“With all due modesty, I must say that 27 years ago we said, ‘Europe is our future,'” Orban told the small crowd at the unveiling. “Today, we can say, ‘We are Europe’s future.'”
Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, contributed to this report.