The troubling alliance between NGOs and human traffickers off Europe’s southern border
According to the prosecutor, there is “evidence that there are direct contacts between certain NGOs and people traffickers in Libya."Read more
In today’s information-saturated world, we encounter a number of arguments and story lines that become popular and oft-repeated despite having almost no basis in fact. They sound compelling and have many people who would very much like to believe them, but they’re not true. The longer they linger, however, the more they get in the way. These myths deserve to be busted.
Despite recent reports claiming that an “NGO crackdown” is under way in Hungary, the reported draft legislation confirms what the government of Hungary has been saying all along: this is about transparency in civil society. NGOs, not even those representing foreign interests, are not in jeopardy in Hungary.
Members of the European Parliament are so worried about the activities of certain foreign-funded NGOs that they’re calling for the EU to cut public funding for NGOs "demonstrably disseminating untruths". Others question "democratic legitimacy" of NGOs.
Few people know that there’s not one CEU, but two. There’s the Central European University, registered in New York, which does not offer university education in New York. And there’s the Közép-europai Egyetem in Hungary. If you get a degree from CEU, who is awarding your diploma? Until now, in an inexplicable 2-for-1, the answer was both.
In the face of a political adversary that wants to transform Europe by allowing unbridled immigration, casting aside subsidiarity and encumbering the labor markets with bureaucratic rules, the center-right political forces of Europe must summon the confidence to “accept the intellectual and political fight with the Left,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, addressing the European People’s Party Congress in Malta today.
According to Schengen rules, if people enter the Schengen zone by crossing the Hungarian border and do not have proper documentation, then Hungary has a legal obligation to ensure that those people do not leave until their status is clarified.
CeBIT, the giant technology trade expo held each year in Hannover, Germany, is regarded as the largest event of its kind and attracts the most extensive international representation. Hungary's pavilion takes up 400 square meters at this year’s event, making it the biggest exhibition space that our innovators have ever had to present themselves and their work.
Hungary’s national day, March 15th, commemorates the day in 1848 when Hungarians started a revolution that would become a war of independence from the Habsburgs. In his address on Wednesday, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spoke of the meaning that 1848 carries for Hungary and its significance to today’s Europe.
“Clearly, Mr. Orban is playing the European Union for a patsy,” the New York Times editors write in a piece published yesterday. “At what point will the union have the courage to take action against his policies?”
The US State Department recently published its annual human rights report, a relic of the Cold War era. With that familiar “we know better” approach, the chapter on Hungary takes aim at our government’s actions responding to the migration crisis and reflects the previous US administration’s lax policy toward illegal immigration, a policy position on the verge of extinction.
Something strange is happening with Transparency International. The international NGO that made a name for itself for its “global coalition against corruption” has remained rather tight-lipped about why it decided in January to strip accreditation from its US affiliate, denying it the use of the TI name and logo.
For breaking the rules of political correctness and using the word “ethnic” without a trigger warning, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is under heavy attack from the liberal media. The attacks, however, quote him completely out of context and deliberately misinterpret the meaning.
Hungary’s economy hit the ground running this year. The major indicators are trending positive and international investors have taken note. Signs of a strong recovery, however, do not mean we can rest. Instead, said Prime Minister Orbán, it means that it’s time to dream big.
Yesterday afternoon, Hungarian Minister of Justice Trócsányi and I were invited to defend the Orbán Government’s policy on migration before the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.
As a result of the hard work of Hungarian people, Hungary once again stands before an “economic breakthrough,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán addressing the Parliament earlier this week at the opening of the spring session.
Since 2000, Hungary remembers the victims of communism each year on February 25th. The totalitarian oppression in the name of this “mad ideology,” in the words of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, shattered millions of lives all over the world. Today's memorial is the day we light a candle for communism’s victims, many of whom still live among us.
Amnesty International has just released its annual report called “The State of the World’s Human Rights.” This once-lauded international human rights organization was founded in 1961 as an advocate for the prisoner of conscience, those “imprisoned, tortured or executed because [of their] opinions or religion.” Amnesty is a far cry from that today.
In an evolving, multipolar world order, Europe cannot afford to waste its energy and resources on senseless pursuits. Europe has great potential, but it lacks self-confidence. It is passing through a period of weakness, and that weakness breeds insecurity and fear that poisons the soul of the European body politic.
“It is hard to imagine a successful Hungary,” the prime minister said, “without establishing open, vigorous and fruitful economic and trade relations with one of the biggest players in the global economy”
As a strident critic of this government’s firm stance against illegal immigration, Amnesty International is not interested in a balanced discussion. Their analysis begins with their conclusions then endeavors to find supporting facts.
“Nowhere do human rights prescribe national suicide,” said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán recently at the swearing-in ceremony of the civilian border patrol. It’s short but simple, and it sums up Hungary’s approach towards illegal migration: we will put the citizens’ right to security before the rights of illegal migrants until there status is legalized.
If we have any hope to understand the present day and have some sense of where we’re headed, we have to know where we’ve been. If we’re to understand where we’ve been, we have to listen to history’s witnesses. Father Oloffson Placid, Benedictine monk, teacher, GULAG survivor, passed away at age 101 on January 15, 2017. The testimony of his life, however, will remain a cornerstone for our understanding of the turbulent 20th century and an invaluable touchstone for us for the future.
We have seen a fundamental shift in global politics in recent months. Positions and policies are moving in a different direction, changing in response to public outcry and voter dissatisfaction. The old guard are being taken to task.
In what is becoming an annual tradition, POLITICO Europe has published a list of 28 people “who are shaping, shaking and stirring Europe.” Each of the 28 representing an EU member state, it’s a thoughtful and provocative list and no less so with the editors’ pick this year from Hungary.
As citizens prepare for the third Sunday of Advent, heads of the EU member states once again gather in Brussels to discuss the pressing migration crisis. The differences will resemble the struggle of David against Goliath, said Prime Minister Orbán in his radio interview last week, and in the role of David stand the Visegrád Four countries, including Hungary.
“Congratulations. What great news. Democracy is still alive,” read the message posted on Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Facebook page soon after the world learned that Donald J. Trump had been elected the 45th President of the United States of America.
As Hungarian government and law enforcement fight to counter extremism, well-known left-wing figures have been proposing some strange alliances. Their latest ideas should be condemned, especially in light of the recent attack on Hungarian police.
“These people aren’t involved in border protection,” said Prime Minister Orbán of the newly established Frontex unit proposed to the management board. Frontex, of course, is the EU agency that was set up to manage cooperation among national border guards and help secure the EU’s external border. The problem with the proposed, new unit is that it is for anything but guarding European borders and coastlines. Plus, it is ridiculously weak in numbers.
“The problem with [ideology-driven thinking] is that it gives an answer to the question before facts are considered,” Prime Minister Orbán said in his radio interview this morning, adding that this kind of thinking has tied up and hindered the West.
Hungary’s fiscal responsibility brings about credit rating upgrade and record-breaking surplus in the budget. These factors, along with significant economic growth and falling unemployment, are fueling a broad economic and social recovery.
Recently, Foreign Policy published an article about the freedom fighters of 1956 and today's Hungary. It used some pretty strong and unfair language, so I reached out to the editors for a chance to reply. They never answered, so I'm posting my response here.
“It is a colorful, big cavalcade, not an easy task to make some sort of compromise,” said Prime Minister Orbán in this morning’s radio interview, explaining the difficult nature of discussions on migration in the EU.
“[O]ur geographical position every thirty years causes history to suddenly thrust [Hungarians] into the main current of debate on the future of Europe,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Sunday, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Hungarian Revolution and Freedom Fight against the Soviet Union in 1956.
Hungary’s stance on immigration has been labeled one of the “destroyers of Europe”, however these sentiments couldn’t be further from the truth. Hungary’s border policy does in fact protect European freedom.
It began on a Tuesday afternoon, a beautiful autumn day on the 23rd of October 1956. Students gathered in peaceful protest with their manifesto calling for Hungary’s independence from all foreign powers, particularly the Soviet troops occupying the country. They demanded freedom of opinion and expression, the rights of free people in a democratic system.
“In 2015, a migratory wave of unforeseen proportions reached the borders of Europe,” according to the text presenting the proposed amendments to the Fundamental Law of Hungary. “One and a half million people crossed Schengen borders illegally. The cultural and economic integration of the masses of newcomers has made Europe face an unsolvable task, and uncontrolled border-crossings have significantly increased the danger of terror.
It was a Tuesday, that October 23rd in 1956. The whole thing began as a peaceful, student demonstration, young people with a manifesto asserting the right to be independent from all foreign powers and that all Hungarians should enjoy the rights of free people in a democratic system. The crowds grew as the demonstrations moved throughout the city. By nightfall, State Security Police had fired on a crowd of unarmed demonstrators outside the state radio building, killing many.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post published an article on page one with the enticing, clickable title, “Hungary intends to stop migrants with ‘hunters’ near border wall,” by their Berlin-based correspondent, Anthony Faiola. Unfortunately, he got a few things wrong.
3.3 million voters said “no” to the mandatory migrant relocation scheme in a national referendum in Hungary yesterday. This unprecedented level of support for the government’s position sends a clear message to Brussels: “Nothing about us, without us.”
European citizens are down on the EU, according to a study carried out in 28 member states earlier this year. Revealing a disturbing pessimism about the current and future European Union, it seems that citizens like the EU far less than ever before.
In Thursday’s print edition of the Financial Times, following Standard and Poor’s decision to restore Hungary’s credit rating to investment grade, a commentator praises Prime Minister Orbán’s “economic miracle.” Once a staunch critic of Hungary’s “unorthodox” measures to restore its technically bankrupt economy, the British daily’s admiration is the first sign that S&P’s move closes an era of doubts over whether Hungarian reforms are working.
Hungarian athletes are once again in the spotlight in Rio de Janeiro. Midweek, after six days of competition in the XV Paralympic Games, Hungary has won four silver and four bronze medals. Forty-three Hungarian athletes are competing in 17 sports and 74 events during this edition of the games.
Some have wondered when that fateful turn began, that moment that marked “the beginning of the end of the Soviet Empire.” For those of us who endured Soviet oppression behind the Iron Curtain, it came in 1956, brought about by a scrappy pack of kids, many of whom paid the ultimate price for their courage.
Ungarn ist das einzige Land in der Europäischen Union, das seinen Bürgern mit einer nationalen Volksabstimmung am 2. Oktober ermöglicht, über eines der derzeit wichtigsten Themen abzustimmen: die Massenmigration, die Europa destabilisiert, und insbesondere den Versuch der EU, Zwangsansiedlungen von Migranten anzuordnen.
With the national referendum slated for October 2nd, Hungary is the only country in the European Union that is giving citizens the opportunity to vote on one of the most significant issues of the day: the mass migration challenging the stability of Europe and, specifically, the EU’s attempt to impose compulsory resettlement of migrants.
Prime Minister Orbán’s economic program sets out a number of ambitious goals. It demands fiscal discipline to keep the budget deficit not only under the three-percent Maastricht threshold but low enough to reduce nominal state debt. It calls for GDP growth to increase from the current level between 2 and 3 percent to a more robust output above 3 percent and sets a longer term goal of five percent. And it aims to create jobs to bring the labor market to full employment.
In etwas weniger als einem Monat werden die Ungarn bei einem nationalen Referendum ihre Stimmen abgeben. Sie werden über die folgende Frage abstimmen: Wollen Sie, dass die Europäische Union auch ohne die Zustimmung des [ungarischen] Parlaments die verpflichtende Ansiedlung von nichtungarischen Staatsbürgern in Ungarn vorschreiben kann?
In a little over a month, Hungarian voters will go to the polls in a national referendum. They will vote on one question: Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens into Hungary even without the approval of the National Assembly?
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s annual speech at the Bálványos Open University and youth camp in Baile Tusnad have become major events over the years, attracting even international headlines and sometimes controversy, for the challenging ideas he puts forward.
Die alljährlich stattfindende Grundsatzrede von Ministerpräsident Viktor Orbán an der Sommeruniversität von Bad Götzenburg (Bálványos) mit Studentenlager im siebenbürgischen Bad Tuschnad (Tusnádfürdő) hat sich über die Jahre zu einem wichtigen Ereignis entwickelt, das weltweit für Schlagzeilen sorgt und manchmal sogar zu Kontroversen rund um die herausfordernden Ideen des Premiers führte.
Der Termin steht fest: Am 2. Oktober 2016 wird in Ungarn eine Volksabstimmung über das verpflichtende EU-Quotensystem zur Ansiedlung von Migranten stattfinden. Dass das Datum nur einige Tage nach dem Brexit bekanntgegeben wurde, hat zu Mutmaßungen geführt, das ungarische Referendum handle ebenfalls vom Austritt aus der EU. Natürlich war das aus dem Munde mancher Kritiker eine absichtliche Verwechslung aus politischen Gründen.
The date is set: on October 2nd, 2016, Hungary will hold a referendum on the EU’s mandatory migrant resettlement quota system. The announcement of the date of the referendum, coming as it did just a few days following Brexit led some to suggest that the Hungarian vote will be another plebiscite on leaving the EU. Some critics, of course, deliberately confused the two for political reasons.
Speaking to graduating class of police and border patrol officers last weekend, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had a simple message. It emphasized the outstanding achievement of Hungary’s uniformed services and how they have shown Europe that, if a country so wishes, it can uphold both the Dublin Protocol and the Schengen Treaty. And if everyone does their duty, Europe’s borders can be protected and mass migration can be controlled.
As hideous terror attacks at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport draw attention away from this week’s European Summit and politicians struggle to find the appropriate response to the outcome of the Brexit referendum, EU leadership seems to be grasping for direction.
Während die abscheulichen Terroranschläge am Atatürk-Flughafen in Istanbul die Aufmerksamkeit vom Europa-Gipfel diese Woche ablenken und europäische Politiker um die passende Reaktion auf das Ergebnis des Brexit-Votums ringen, scheint die EU-Führung nach der passenden Richtung zu suchen.
“Brussels must listen to the voice of the people. This is the biggest takeaway from yesterday’s decision,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán commenting on the result of Thursday’s referendum in which voters in the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.
„Brüssel muss auf die Stimme des Volkes hören. Das ist die größte Lektion aus der gestrigen Entscheidung“, sagte Ministerpräsident Viktor Orbán, als er das Ergebnis des Referendums am Donnerstag kommentierte, im Zuge dessen die Wahlberechtigten im Vereinigten Königreich für den Austritt aus der Europäischen Union stimmten.
While Hungary’s national football team continues to surprise at the UEFA European Championship, Hungary surprises in another European competition. For the second year in a row, the country accepted next year’s budget during the spring parliamentary session to build on Hungary’s favorable economic prospects in today’s Europe. Next year’s budget is Hungary’s secret formula to advance on its debt-slashing, GDP growth path.
“The decision is yours, but I would like you to know that Hungary is proud to stand with you as a member of the European Union.” Signed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, this is the text of a full-page advertisement that appeared in the British print media today. This is Hungary’s prime minister taking a stand, like many other European leaders, on an issue that’s important to Europe and important to Hungary.
Infringement procedures – a legal tool designed to make sure European laws are harmonized – arise from time to time for all EU members states. It’s just part of life in a union comprising 28 countries and one set of European acquis.
„Es ist Ihre Entscheidung, doch ich möchte, dass Sie wissen, dass Ungarn stolz darauf ist, mit Ihnen gemeinsam in der Europäischen Union zu sein.“ Das ist der von Viktor Orbán unterzeichnete Text einer ganzseitigen Annonce, die heute in den britischen Printmedien erschienen ist. Ungarns Premierminister setzt sich, wie viele andere europäische Staats- und Regierungschefs, für eine Sache ein, die für Europa und Ungarn gleichermaßen wichtig ist.
What a night! After 95 minutes of dominating the game, two terrific, well-deserved goals (and many great saves), the Hungarian national football team defeated favorites Austria, 2 to 0. The victory for the underdogs puts Hungary on top of the leaderboard in the group, after Iceland and Portugal’s 1-1 tie. A decades-long curse has been broken.
Was für eine Nacht! Nach 95 Minuten als dominierende Mannschaft, nach zwei wunderschönen, wohlverdienten Toren (und vielen schön gehaltenen Bällen) besiegte die ungarische Fußball-Nationalelf die favorisierten Österreicher 2 zu 0. Durch den Sieg der Außenseiter steht Ungarn nach dem 1:1 Unentschieden zwischen Island und Portugal an der Spitze der Gruppentabelle. Ein jahrzehntelanger Fluch wurde gebrochen.
Romanced by today’s creative, fun-loving Budapest, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always so. For a dozen days in late October and early November 1956, Hungarians fought to liberate themselves from the yoke of communist oppression. Everyday people from all walks of life suddenly became freedom fighters. Spurred on by indefatigable traditions of independence and self-determination, the people revolted and nearly won.
Yesterday, the Hungarian Parliament amended the Fundamental Law, our constitution, to allow the national assembly to declare a state of terrorism threat and grant temporary, extraordinary powers to the government.
Seit mehr als eineinhalb Jahren ist Europa einem gewaltigen Migrationsstrom ausgesetzt. Ministerpräsident Viktor Orbán war einer der ersten Regierungschefs des Kontinents, der Aufmerksamkeit auf das wachsende Problem lenkte, als er letztes Jahr ehrlich über dessen faktischen Herausforderungen zu sprechen begann.
For more than a year and a half, Europe has been confronting a dramatic surge in migration. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was among the first leaders on the continent to call attention to the growing problem when he began speaking frankly early last year about the practical challenges it would pose.
Following his meeting with the “Sunni Pope,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán talked about Europe’s catastrophic interventions in the Islamic world, the need for a stable Egypt and a re-stabilized Libya in his regular radio interview this week. He also touched upon the Brexit referendum and the dangers of the evolving democratic deficit in today’s European Union.
Nach seinem Treffen mit dem „sunnitischen Papst“ sprach der ungarische Ministerpräsident Viktor Orbán diese Woche in seinem regelmäßigen Radio-Interview über Europas katastrophale Interventionen in der islamischen Welt sowie über die Notwendigkeit eines stabilen Ägyptens und der erneuten Stabilisierung Libyens. Er sprach auch vom Brexit-Referendum und den Gefahren des wachsenden demokratischen Defizits in der derzeitigen Europäischen Union.
In recognition of Hungary’s successful efforts to revive its economy, Fitch Ratings upgraded the country to investment grade recently. Although the upgrade came earlier than statistics might suggest, it was no surprise as markets had already priced Hungary’s widely anticipated return to investment grade at multiple credit rating agencies this year. Fitch’s upgrade signals important recognition that Hungary’s reforms are working.
International relations has its political dimension. Certain interests will support a government or oppose it motivated by a political agenda. That’s understandable. But when purely partisan politics becomes the most important driving force behind bilateral or multilateral relations among sovereign, independent countries, then we’ve got a serious problem.
Internationale Beziehungen haben eine politische Dimension. Gewisse Interessengruppen unterstützen eine Regierung oder lehnen sie ab – je nach der politischen Agenda. Das ist verständlich. Aber wenn reine Parteipolitik zur treibenden Kraft hinter bilateralen oder multilateralen Beziehungen zwischen souveränen, unabhängigen Ländern wird, haben wir ein ernsthaftes Problem.
Hungary certainly has its critics in the EU quarter, but the real picture looks substantially different. Hungarians and our prime minister have become known as straight-talkers, and that directness, because our message makes sense to a lot of people, has also won many supporters.
Ungarn hat im Europaviertel gewiss seine Kritiker, aber das wahre Bild sieht deutlich anders aus. Ungarn und unser Premierminister haben sich mit ihrer geradlinigen Art einen Namen gemacht und mit dieser Direktheit viele Unterstützer gewonnen, da unsere Botschaft Sinn ergibt.
While elites will inevitably maneuver to shape politics in a democracy, it is up to the people to decide on a country’s direction, Prime Minister Orbán emphasized in his regular radio interview this morning. Every thirty years or so, Hungary finds itself in the spotlight on the stage of international politics, he said, but people should not allow themselves to be deterred by the blinding spotlights.
Als der frühere US-Präsident Bill Clinton diese Woche behauptete, Ungarn und Polen schulden ihre Freiheit dem „langen Kalten Krieg“ und den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika, demonstrierte er damit nicht nur seine außerordentliche Unkenntnis über die ungarische Geschichte, sondern auch über die europäische Geschichte und die globale politische Landschaft.
When former US President Bill Clinton claimed earlier this week that Hungary and Poland owe their freedom to “the long Cold War” and the United States of America, he demonstrated an extraordinary ignorance not only of Hungarian history but also of Europe and the global political landscape.
Am Sonntag vor einer Woche passierte etwas Interessantes an der Wahlfront, das außerhalb von Ungarn größtenteils unbemerkt blieb. Am 8. Mai fand in Ungarn landesweit eine Art Super-Wahlsonntag mit neun Gemeinde-Zwischenwahlen statt. Einige Wahlen gingen so aus, wie es die Umfragen vorhergesehen hatten, andere wiederum sorgten für Überraschungen.
A week ago Sunday, something interesting happened on the elections front that went largely unnoticed outside of Hungary. On the 8th, Hungary had a Super Sunday of sorts with nine by-elections taking place in municipalities around the country. Some of the elections turned out as the polls predicted, but others produced a few surprises. Some brought mandates for the governing party, some to the left-wing and right-wing opposition, and a couple of independents were also successful.
Research and innovation are key factors in many countries’ strategy to boost economic growth, add value to their economies and attract more foreign direct investment (FDI). Hungary has long recognized the importance of its research and development (R&D) sector and, as announced by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in his speech at the Hungarian Academy of Science, is planning to invest some 1.2 billion HUF (3.8 billion EUR) for R&D until 2020.
Hungary will mark the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution this autumn. Events are already underway across the country to honor those who courageously rose up against communist tyranny during those fateful days that began October 23, 1956.
Jaws dropped across the European Union last week as the Eurocrats revealed their latest proposal. Whether it was in the way they dehumanized refugees by putting price tags on their heads or accused elected prime ministers of being undemocratic, the tendentious actions of the Eurocrats seem to be deliberately intended to alienate friends and supporters of the European idea. With the Brexit referendum just around the corner, Eurocrats would do well to exercise more restraint.
The media is always quick to reach a verdict. “Scandal” and “corruption” appear as frequently in sensationalist headlines as “good day” at a busy newsstand. But there is one, golden question that media coverage has missed in the story of the Hungarian Central Bank and the foundations it established, and that golden question is this: How far does a national bank’s independence extend?
Hungary’s top court ruled this week in favor of the government’s plan for a referendum on the European Union’s mandatory migrant resettlement quotas. With the court’s decision, the last legal obstacle in Hungary has been removed
A recent installment of the Global Investment Guide, a series published by Forbes, writes on the recovery of the Hungarian economy, noting that Hungary has reported even better than expected results in stimulating economic growth, reducing unemployment and cutting the GDP-to-debt ratio for the first quarter of 2016. Thanks to savvy reforms that work, Hungary’s bonds, equity markets and currency have recovered and are healthy again.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán visited Serbia recently as the country prepared for last weekend’s elections. The visit was all about strengthening Hungarian-Serbian relations at a time when, as many observers of recent geopolitical trends in Europe have said, the significance and influence of Central and Eastern Europe is changing.
European member states are exceptionally busy these days. Although some critics suggest that they seem asleep at the wheel in the wake of the biggest migration crisis the continent has seen for decades, the European Commission and some individual member states have drafted proposals to respond to the crisis. These plans are currently vying with one another, all in preparation for the upcoming European Council Summit.
“When I visit southern Germany, I always find time to visit Mr. Chancellor [Kohl],” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán about his latest meeting with former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, adding that they discussed the future of Europe and bilateral relations between Germany and Hungary. Today, in his regular biweekly radio interview, the prime minister had several interesting things to say about both. A few things that may surprise you.
Freedom House released its annual Nations in Transit report this week. Shining a spotlight on democracy in central and eastern Europe, it scores each government’s performance across a range of indicators like governance, electoral process, independent media, civil society, judiciary and corruption.
Last week, the Hungarian Parliament withdrew the law on the mandatory, Sunday closures for retail shops. The regulation, which provided a guarantee to workers in the retail sector that they would have a day off on Sunday, had been in effect since March 15, 2015. Now Hungary’s retail sector is again open for business on Sundays.
The Hungarian Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga presented Hungary’s 2017 budget plan on Tuesday. The core message signals predictability and stability to investors, while maintaining the government’s popular “one step ahead” policy, especially for families. The budget plans for 3.1 percent GDP growth, a falling debt-to-GDP ratio and a deficit of 2.4 percent.
Yes, the loan is paid off. Commenting last week on the good news, Prime Minister Orbán said that “Every Hungarian family has a good reason to open a good bottle of red wine tonight and drink to the health of the country because yesterday we succeeded in settling the old debt that the previous government took on in 2008."
In his regular, radio interview on Friday morning, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that, on the EU’s quota system, “it cannot be the case that one member state alone makes a decision and the others suffer the consequences.” He also spoke about the symbolic significance of paying off the loan and that Hungary has good reason to celebrate this weekend.
A fan’s tribute to Prime Minister Orbán’s March 15 speech has enjoyed remarkable success on Youtube. After the user posted the speech with subtitles in English and called attention to some of the very direct language in the prime minister’s address, the video post garnered more than 200 thousand views within the first week of being published. When I last checked yesterday, the video had 6,000 likes, 100 dislikes and over 3,000 overwhelmingly positive comments.
Here we go again: a new social issue on the menu. This time it’s education occupying the domestic public sphere as Hungarian teachers voice their concerns over the elements of an overdue structural reform of public education.
In February, I posted a few examples of how certain leaders were beginning to sing a distinctly different tune on the growing migration challenge. The title of the post was “Migration and European Borders: That Moment When Other EU Leaders Sound Like Prime Minister Orbán.”
Over the past few years, Hungary has been subject to its fair share of double standards from the European Union. Having been wrongly accused of curtailing the freedom of the press, undermining checks and balances and the rule of law, the Orbán government, although cleared on all charges, was labeled the EU’s “black sheep”. A familiar narrative has emerged in Poland.
First reactions are often the same: grief, condolences, sympathy, words to remember the victims and to comfort the families. Hungary’s highest representatives, President Áder and Prime Minister Orbán, were among the first European leaders to express their condolences through letters to their Belgian counterparts.
As the cost of raising children increases, Hungary’s government has singled out soaring housing prices as a major hindrance to families who want to own their home and have more children. To ease the financial burden, the government has passed legislation that provides support for home ownership.
Prime Minister Orbán, President of the Central Bank György Matolcsy and Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga appeared together this week at an event hosted by the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Recent weeks have brought a good deal of upbeat economic data related to 2015, so there was plenty of reason to be bullish on 2016.
Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér announced last week that Hungary is declaring a nationwide state of emergency due to the increasing volume of mass migration on the Western Balkans route. As a result, reinforcements have been deployed to the borders to provide additional security and be on the lookout for people trying to cross illegally.
I took part in a panel discussion recently about international media coverage of Hungary. The panel was part of an event announcing the release of the latest edition of an analysis published every year by Nézőpont Intézet, a think tank in Budapest.
On Monday, heads of the European Union member states gathered for yet another summit, attempting to reach an agreement on how to respond to the migration crisis that the EU has been struggling with now for more than a year.
The first thing we learned from last Friday’s joint press conference following the meeting between Prime Minister of Bavaria Horst Seehofer and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is what they didn’t do during their meeting.
“Here, there will be no breaking through of the [border] fence, no immigrant uprisings, no refugee camps set on fire and all kinds of gangs will not be out on the hunt for Hungarian women, our wives and daughters. This is impossible, it cannot happen,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. “From this perspective, we will not make Europe out of Hungary. This will remain a safe place.”
“As I see today,” Prime Minister Orbán said, “there are so many problems – and you know it too, that problems don’t just mean trouble, they mean an opportunity as well – within the European Union that many countries have taken up with or are taking up with the idea of creating a deeper form of integration after the common currency. And that puts us, every country, which is not a part of the Eurozone, up to a challenge.”
European leaders gathered in Brussels earlier this month for a European Council meeting on Britain’s proposed reform plans and again on the migration crisis. Though often heated and sometimes personal, the debate took Europe closer to the solution that Hungary and others have been proposing for months on migration: restore order at Europe’s borders before anything else.
Prime Minister Orbán has had a busy travel agenda in recent days, visiting Jakarta, Ulan Bator, Moscow, Brussels, and Prague — and in the same week, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło paid a visit to Hungary. The prime minister wasn’t the only one on the road of late. Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjártó also traveled to the United States last week.
Clearly, the debate about migration and strengthening Europe’s external borders has taken a turn. Following renewed fighting around the city of Aleppo, nearly 600,000 Syrian migrants are reportedly bound for Europe, compelling Austria and Germany to change their positions on the question of border protection.
The latest economic data is out. Hungary’s GDP grew in 2015 by 2.9 percent, beating the forecasts, and other preliminary data shows the debt-to-GDP ratio shrinking to 75.5%. A shrinking debt along side GDP growth indicates that this economy is growing organically, not from financing. In fact, last year was encouraging on a number of economic fronts.
Clearly, the debate about migration and strengthening Europe’s external borders has taken a turn. Following renewed fighting around the city of Aleppo, nearly 600 thousand Syrian migrants are reportedly bound for Europe, compelling Austria and Germany to change their positions on the question of border protection.
That Hungary and Russia have managed to improve relations, particularly in the current international climate, is first and foremost “rooted in the sense of responsibility” and marks “a true miracle,” said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán yesterday following his annual meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Today, leaders of member states of the European Union gather for another summit of the European Council. This time, it’s to grapple with responses to the migration crisis as well as the British reform proposals for the European Union.
“It is a fact that one should act cautiously not to [unnecessarily] limit the rights of freedom, but people’s security comes first,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said Friday morning during his regular interview with public radio.
Last week, one of France’s credit insurance companies, Coface, presented a report on the world economic outlook for 2016. In the report, Coface named only one country eligible for a credit rating upgrade: Hungary.
The Schengen Area, first established in 1995, has eliminated border controls and allowed the free movement of people and goods in a vast geographic area that now spans 26 countries of Europe. The ongoing crisis of mass migration, however, has threatened to change all of that.