In yesterday’s edition of the Brussels Playbook newsletter, POLITICO, closely following their usual “editorial policies”, called the government of Hungary “Putin’s EU saboteur,” claiming that the Orbán Government is threatening to veto the extension of EU sanctions because the prime minister “wants four individuals removed from the list.”
False. Hungary had no objections to the list of names connected to the tenth sanctions package.
But it’s not simply a matter of a reporter getting his facts wrong. POLITICO knew the information was false, but they published it in the Playbook newsletter anyway.
An official of the Hungarian government responded to the questions of the journalist, Jacopo Barigazzi, making it clear that Hungary was not threatening a veto because of any names on the list. He made it completely clear to Barigazzi that Hungary’s only issue was with the length of the rollover – i.e., that the length of the review of the sanctions regime should remain at the current six months and not be extended to 12. That rather essential fact made it into a revised version of the story on Tuesday evening, February 21.
The Hungarian official also made it clear that the Baltic-Polish proposal, which would make it easier to list oligarchs and their family members, is not part of the tenth sanctions package.
So, is Hungary threatening to veto the sanctions package because of certain names on the list? No. Is Hungary threatening a veto over the Baltic-Polish proposal? No. So where’s the story here? Good question.
Never letting facts get in the way of a juicy story about their nefarious Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Brussels Playbook, on Wednesday morning, ran with the headline, “Putin’s EU saboteur…”. And later added the completely opinionated and factually groundless remark: “When will EU leaders face reality and prevent Hungary from enacting such blockades by suspending its voting rights, rather than continuing to allow Orbán to blackmail the entire Union?”
Oh, and a gem from this morning’s edition of the Brussels Playbook:
“SPEAKING OF HUNGARY: The leaders of the “Bucharest 9” NATO countries met Wednesday in Warsaw with U.S. President Joe Biden and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg. But one leader was missing: Viktor Orbán.”
Of course, he missed the mark. It’s always the heads of state who participate in B9 meetings. And President Katalin Novák was definitely there. A little bit of fact checking goes a long way…
We have enjoyed the woefully biased reporting of POLITICO Europe for years now, so we’ve grown accustomed to it. But running a story like this, on a major topic facing the EU, and reporting patently false information about Hungary constitutes a flagrant foul.