Hungary: Viktor Orbán, a latter day Kuruc
1 February 2011
By taking on the rest of Europe, the Hungarian Prime Minister is appealing to his compatriots’ patriot gene, which protests against foreign powers. But this tactic doesn’t work every time, notes the Hungarian daily Népszabadság.
Just like a naughty boy, the Orbán government seems to be testing those around it. Hungarian society has put up with everything so far, but the EU is another story. Who would have thought that a law on the media would provoke such a skirmish? That Hungarian journos would be supported from abroad; that the French, German or British press would be interested in press freedom in Hungary? Or that the EU Commission is seriously considering examining the law?
We have been added to the agenda of the European Parliament. We are in good company. The parliamentarians examined the situation in Tunisia; violence against Christians in the Middle East; the situation in Belarus; and – how democracy functions in Hungary.
We could take umbrage at this. That’s what the government is doing. Viktor Orbán, outraged, denied the “accusations made against Hungary”. Showing right off that he doesn’t always understand Europe. His Secretary for Communications – who claimed that EU Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes has only technical objections concerning the media law – didn’t want to understand that the Commission has serious doubts about whether the law conforms to the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. This kind of subterfuge doesn’t work in the era of Internet and Wikileaks. Orbán is tangled up in the media law and will have a hard time getting out of the mess.
Rebels against the capital and western political commentators
It is possible that the issue will blow over and that Europe will have other fish to fry. One can even hope that we will do such a marvelous job during our six month presidency that, at the end of it, all will be forgotten – or better yet, we will be asked for our forgiveness.
But what is more probable is that Victor Orbán will turn this into a domestic political message: by refusing to back down to Europe, he is showing that the entire world is annoying this small country. He is striking the Hungarians’ Kuruc* chord, which rebels against the capital and western political commentators. In these conditions, the presidency will be a difficult exercise because Orbán will be in continuous negociations and will constantly have to find compromises.
What a shame, the communications people may say. Regulating the Union wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, Europe is on the lookout.
*The Kurucs, led by Prince Francis II Rákóczi, rebelled against the Habsburg Empire from 1703 to 1711. Hector Berlioz was inspired by a Kuruc melody when composing his “Hungarian March”.