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Posts tagged ‘Magyar Land of Hungary’

Netanyahu greets Hungary’s Orban as ‘true friend of Israel’

July 19, 2018

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday welcomed Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, calling him a “true friend of Israel” despite the outcry over the visiting leader’s past remarks that have been interpreted as anti-Semitic.

Orban and Netanyahu held a joint press conference in Jerusalem following the Hungarian premier’s arrival in Israel the day before. The four-time Hungarian prime minister drew criticism last year for praising Miklos Horthy — Hungary’s World War II-era ruler who introduced anti-Semitic laws and collaborated with the Nazis — and employing tropes that were anti-Semitic in tone against billionaire philanthropist George Soros during his re-election campaign.

Orban evoked anti-Semitic language in denouncing Soros, saying that Hungary’s enemies “do not believe in work, but speculate with money; they have no homeland, but feel that the whole world is theirs.”

Despite global Jewish condemnation of those remarks, Netanyahu praised Orban for combatting anti-Semitism and thanked him for Hungary’s pro-Israel stance. Netanyahu said the two leaders shared an understanding “that the threat of radical Islam is a real one. It could endanger Europe. It could endanger the world. It certainly endangers us and our Arab neighbors.”

Orban has cast himself as champion of a Christian Europe and adopted an aggressive stance to halt the flow of African and Muslim migrants through Hungary. The populist, right-wing politician campaigned earlier this year for re-election on a staunchly anti-migrant platform.

Orban chalked up his country’s strong bilateral ties with Israel to the two leaders’ “excellent personal ties” and “because the two countries have patriots as leaders.” Netanyahu visited Hungary last year — the first visit by an Israeli premier since the 1980s — and was warmly received by Orban. During the trip, Orban said the European Union’s ties with Israel were “not rational enough,” criticizing its stipulation that closer ties would follow resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Israeli premier has taken flak in Israel for embracing Orban amid the Hungarian leader’s increasing authoritarianism, as well as for striking a deal with Poland over a controversial Holocaust speech law. Critics of the compromise with Poland contend Netanyahu appeared to capitulate to the claim that Poles were only victims of the Nazis. Historians say anti-Semitism was prevalent in pre-war Poland and that some Poles collaborated with the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Opposition lawmaker Yair Lapid, whose father was a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, scorned Netanyahu ahead of his meeting with Orban. “After he disrespected the memory of Holocaust victims in the agreement with Poland, today Netanyahu will pay honors to Hungarian Prime Minister Orban, who hailed and praised the anti-Semitic ruler who collaborated with the Nazis in destroying the Jews of Hungary,” Lapid wrote on Twitter. “Shame!”

Lapid and fellow opposition politician Tamar Zandberg, head of the Meretz party, called for a boycott of Orban’s visit. “Netanyahu has a thing with anti-Semitic leaders around the world, from Hungary and Poland, to the head of the Philippines, (Rodrigo) Duterte, who compared himself to Hitler, and instead of suffering condemnation, was invited as well for a state visit with the prime minister of Israel,” Zandberg wrote on Facebook.

Protesters were later expected to demonstrate at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, during Orban’s visit there. Amnesty International in Israel organized a protest against Orban’s visit to the memorial, rejecting “restraint toward the words of praise for anti-Semitism, for racism and anti-democratic persecution.”

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Hungary: President recommends Viktor Orban as prime minister

May 08, 2018

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s president has recommended that lawmakers re-elect Prime Minister Viktor Orban to what would be his third consecutive term and fourth overall. Orban’s Fidesz party and a small ally won 133 of 199 seats in the national assembly in the April 8 election, securing a two-thirds majority which will allow them to amend the constitution unchallenged. The date of the lawmakers’ vote on Orban has yet to be determined.

President Janos Ader, speaking Tuesday during the first parliamentary session after the national election, also urged lawmakers to amend election laws, in part to weed out small parties which he suggested ran only to gain access to state funds.

Meanwhile, a few hundred people protested outside parliament, most against Orban but some also demanding changes among the ineffective opposition parties.

Hungary’s Orban seeks re-election on anti-migrant platform

April 05, 2018

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is betting that his relentless campaign against migration will keep his voter base united and motivated for Sunday’s national election. Since 400,000 people passed through Hungary in 2015 on their way to Western Europe, Orban has made migration the near-exclusive focus of his government. Now, at most, a few people a day reach the country’s borders.

Orban is seeking his third consecutive term and fourth overall since 1998. Most polls predict Orban’s Fidesz party will get around 50 percent of the votes, far ahead of Jobbik, a nationalist right-wing party, the Socialist Party or several smaller left-wing or green groups.

According to Orban and his ministers, Hungary will descend into chaos should it become an “immigrant country” like France or Belgium. He claims that domestic and European Union funds meant for Hungarian families or the country’s 800,000-strong Roma minority will be diverted to migrants, whose presence will weaken Hungary’s security and increase its terror risk.

And if migrants settle in Hungary, Orban claims Hungary’s economic development will end, its support for rural areas will dwindle, women and girls will be “hunted down” and Budapest, the capital, will become “unrecognizable.”

After building razor-wire fences on the country’s southern borders in 2015 to divert the migrant flow, Orban has constructed a grand conspiracy theory. He claims the EU, the U.N., Hungarian-American financier George Soros and the civic groups he sponsors are all conspiring to force Hungary to take in thousands of mainly Muslim migrants to weaken its independence and its Christian identity and culture.

He spoke last month about a “Soros mercenary army” with around 2,000 people “being paid to work toward bringing down the government” in Sunday’s vote. Still, forecasts about the 199 parliamentary seats at stake are complicated. In Hungary’s complex electoral system, voters cast two ballots — one for a candidate in their voting district and another for a party list. Fidesz should clearly win the party race, which allocates 93 seats, but there are many uncertainties about its performance in the 106 individual districts.

Although opposition candidates won only 10 individual districts in the 2014 vote, they are urging supporters to vote tactically for the opposition candidate in each district who has the best chance to prevent a Fidesz victory.

“People may not even vote for their favorite party or candidate but rather for the one with biggest chance” to defeat Fidesz, said Jobbik leader Gabor Vona. It’s not clear how well the tactic will work.

“As long as the opposition is in a fragmented state … this migrant/refugee campaign is sufficient to keep (Orban’s) voting base united, to keep it mobilized,” said Balazs Bocskei, political analyst at the Idea Institute, a Budapest think-tank.

Spokesman Zoltan Kovacs says the government’s “Stop Soros” package, which has been submitted to parliament, aimed to close “legal loopholes.” “So-called NGOs camouflaging themselves as philanthropic and human rights groups are basically going against the established rules of this country and the European Union, helping illegal immigration happen,” Kovacs said.

The bill has yet to be passed but its effects are already being felt. “The ‘Stop Soros’ package … already results in considerable self-censorship from our part. For reasons of safety, we don’t work anymore the way that we used to,” said Annastiina Kallius of the Migrant Solidarity Group of Hungary.

Opposition leaders reject Orban’s claims that they are controlled by Soros and support mass immigration. “It’s all a huge delusion,” said Gergely Karacsony, the prime ministerial candidate of the Socialist Party and his own Dialogue party. “Since they can’t govern, they are trying to hold on to power by deceiving the people.”

Vona said Jobbik was strongly anti-migration “but we don’t want to manipulate and scare people with this issue.” Some experts say there is no alternative to Orban for Hungary’s conservative voters. “Unfortunately, for those on the right who are disappointed with Orban, there is no democratic conservative alternative like Germany’s CDU or a French Macron-type party,” said Paul Lendvai, a journalist and author of “Orban: Hungary’s Strongman.” ”Someone who is angry with him can only show it by not going to the polls.”

The one thing opposition parties do agree on is the need to reverse many of Orban’s policies, which they call anti-democratic. They are vowing to restore the democratic system of checks and balances, expand press freedom, join the European Public Prosecutor’s Office to enhance anti-corruption efforts and allocate more funds to education, health care and fighting poverty.

“The Orban regime is a hybrid regime between democracy and dictatorship,” Karacsony said. “This isn’t one election among many, where people vote about their judgment of a good or fairly good government. This is about the social model which has solidified in Hungary.”

High school students in Hungary rally for modern education

January 19, 2018

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Several thousand high school students in Hungary have held a rally outside the national parliament to demand improvements to their education system. Many students held up signs with Facebook’s “angry” emojis, while others characterized Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s regime as a dictatorship.

With few exceptions, Orban has nationalized the school system and set tight controls on the publication of textbooks. Student Andras Bognar told the crowd that “the education system turns us into anguished and indecisive adults with unfounded ideas.”

The protesters also demanded greater flexibility in education opportunities instead of cookie-cutter learning.

Hungary, Ukraine still at odds over Ukraine education law

October 12, 2017

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary will continue to withhold its support for Ukraine’s further integration with the European Union as long as a new Ukrainian education law remains unchanged, Hungary’s foreign minister said Thursday.

The education law passed last month specifies that Ukrainian will be the main language used in schools, rolling back the option for lessons to be taught in other languages. Ukraine has some 150,000 ethnic Hungarians, mostly in the country’s west.

“We consider the new Ukrainian education law a stab in the back of our country,” Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said, speaking after a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin. Ethnic Hungarians in Transcarpathia, as Hungary calls western Ukraine, fear that the 71 Hungarian schools there could be at risk of having to close, Szijjarto said.

He said relations between neighbors Hungary and Ukraine are “at their most difficult period” since Ukraine declared independence from the collapsing Soviet Union in 1991. Russia, Romania and Moldova have also expressed concerns about the new language law.

Klimkin said not knowing the native language made it hard for minorities to be successful in Ukraine. He said 75 percent of students in an area with a large Hungarian minority failed their high school exit exams.

“Everyone needs the opportunity to fulfill themselves in their country of citizenship,” Klimkin said. “But this is not possible without knowing the language.” However, he said “not a single school” would be closed or “a single teacher” dismissed because of the new language requirement.

Klimkin said Hungary’s move to grant Hungarian citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living in Ukraine would not benefit those people. He also alleged that Russia was using the language issue to “manipulate” and “provoke” in Ukraine, including “directly and indirectly” in the Transcarpathia region.

In reply, Szijjarto said ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine “don’t need any incitement from anyone to stand up for their own rights.” “As long as the Hungarians of Transcarpathia ask us to fight on this issue and not back down, we will fight and not back down,” Szijjarto said.

Merkel: Hungary can’t ignore EU refugee ruling

September 12, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it’s unacceptable for Hungary to ignore a ruling by the European Union’s top court that it must accept refugees under an EU-wide plan. But she’s not specifying any consequences.

Hungary’s prime minister has said that while he “took note” of the European Court of Justice’s ruling last week, he’d continue to oppose the plans. Merkel told Tuesday’s edition of the daily Berliner Zeitung: “That one government says it isn’t interested in a verdict by the European Court of Justice cannot be accepted.”

Asked whether that means Hungary must leave the EU, she replied: “It means that a very fundamental European question is affected, because for me Europe is a place governed by laws.” Merkel said an EU summit in October must discuss the issue.

Hungary asks EU to help pay for anti-migrant border fence

September 01, 2017

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s prime minister has asked the European Union to pay for half of the cost of anti-migrant fences it built on its southern borders, or about 440 million euros ($523 million).

In a letter dated Thursday to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the fences erected in 2015 on the borders with Serbia and Croatia have practically eliminated the migrant flow through Hungary, guarding more than just his country.

The move comes days before Europe’s top court is expected to reject an appeal by Hungary and Slovakia against an EU agreement obliging them to take in refugees from Greece and Italy. “With the construction of the fence, training and placing 3,000 border hunters into active service, our country is protecting not only itself but entire Europe against the flood of illegal migrants,” Orban said in the letter. “I hope that, in the spirit of European solidarity, we can rightly expect that the European Commission … will reimburse half of our extraordinary border protection expenses in the foreseeable future.”

But European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein encouraged Hungary to put in a formal application to use funds already earmarked in the 2014-2020 EU budget. “We are not financing the construction of fences or barriers at external borders. We do support border management measures at external borders. This can be surveillance measures. This can be border control equipment. But fences, we do not finance,” Winterstein said Friday. “We won’t change” our stance on that.

The border hunter corps was set up within the police force a year ago and its officers dedicated to border protection duties and guarding the fence. Hungarian soldiers have also been aiding police in the tasks.

Orban said Europe needed to show solidarity with Hungary’s border protection efforts, not just with Greece and Italy, the countries which have received the brunt of the migration influx. EU leaders have criticized Hungary for failing to show solidarity because it refuses to take in any asylum-seekers sought to be relocated from Greece and Italy until their asylum requests are decided.

“Solidarity is a two-way street and all member states should be ready to contribute. This is not some sort of a la carte menu where you pick one dish, for example border management, while refusing another dish, like compliance with relocation decisions,” Winterstein said.

Orban’s demand comes less than a week before the European Court of Justice is scheduled to rule on a legal challenge to the relocation scheme by his government and Slovakia. A top legal adviser recommended in July that the appeal by Hungary and Slovakia be rejected next Wednesday.

The European Commission has also launched its own legal action against Hungary, plus the Czech Republic and Poland, for failing to respect their commitment to take in refugees. Orban’s government has promoted a “Let’s Stop Brussels” billboard and publicity campaign rejecting the EU’s migration policies. Last year, over 98 percent of participating voters said the EU shouldn’t settle anyone in Hungary without the consent of the Hungarian parliament, but the referendum was invalid because of low voter turnout.

As Orban and other government officials earlier made it a point of pride that Hungary had paid for nearly all the costs of the fences and their maintenance with local funds, the change of heart could also let Orban generate another conflict with the EU, should it reject the “reasonable” request for reimbursement.

Lorne Cook contributed to this report from Brussels.

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