Opinion: Hungarian Weeklies on Conflicts with Western Allies

  • 6 Mar 2023 6:50 AM
  • BudaPost
Opinion: Hungarian Weeklies on Conflicts with Western Allies
Opinions diverge on the rights and wrongs of the Hungarian government, but commentators agree that there is growing friction between Hungary and its partners in the Western alliance.

In Magyar Hang, Szabolcs Szerető accuses the government of ’spectacularly ignoring’ its own promises to the European Union by fast-tracking the new law on the Chamber of Physicians early last week.

During the rule-of-law conditionality talks with the European Commission, he recalls, it promised to limit fast-track legislation to the strict minimum, but in this case, the law scrapping compulsory Chamber membership for physicians was passed within 24 hours after the bill was tabled.

By contrast, Szerető adds, the decision on the ratification of Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership has been postponed by another two weeks.

In one of its three editorials this week, Magyar Narancs likens the procedure used by the government against the Chamber of Physicians to the practices of ‘the darkest communist era’. Compulsory membership in the Chamber was scrapped after it called on doctors to sabotage the new on-call system being introduced by the ministry.

Continued Chamber membership, Magyar Narancs writes, will thus amount to a demonstration of hostility towards the government, and they believe this will deter many doctors working in the public health system.

Heti Világgazdaság carries an interview with Anna Lührmann, who is in charge of European affairs within the German Foreign Ministry as a ‘Minister of State’. She tells the liberal weekly that relations between Germany and Hungary are tense at present because rule-of-law and foreign policy problems have isolated Hungary within the European Union. She describes the long-drawn-out process of NATO ratification as ‘a bad sign’.

In Jelen, Tamás Fóti writes about the growing unease of EU member countries with Hungary’s reticence over the sanctions being imposed on Russia because of the war in Ukraine. The latest case was Hungary’s attempt to take four Russian individuals off the list drawn up as part of the 11th sanctions package.

Fóti suggests that they were religious leaders. (After the sanctions were approved by the European Council, Russia suspended visa-free travel for Hungarian diplomats.) The liberal commentator reports that angry EU politicians proposed to renew sanctions on Russia once a year rather than every six months in order to avoid repeated debates with Hungary. He believes that sanctions will eventually be renewed every nine months as a compromise.

In his Mandiner editorial, Mátyás Kohán rejects the accusation that the Hungarian government sides with Russia when it demands an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine. He argues that the first time Hungary put forward that demand was when Russian troops were advancing, and the Hungarian side has always urged the parties to put an end to the fighting regardless of who was advancing and who was retreating.

He believes that after a ceasefire, internationally supervised referenda should be held in disputed territories to decide where the border between the two countries should run. He calls such a stance clearly pro-Ukrainian as it is first and foremost the Ukrainian population that is suffering as a result of the war.

In Demokrata, Gábor Bencsik condemns the Russian aggression on Ukraine but believes that leading Western politicians have failed to ‘think with the head of the Russians’. Western intellectuals, whom he deems extremely influential among policymakers, should have known what the Russian reaction would be to Ukraine’s increasing commitment to an alliance with the West, and therefore, a compromise acceptable for all parties should have been found. Now, he predicts the war will drag on until one of the parties is exhausted – and the price will not be paid by those leading Western intellectuals.

Vote to approve Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids postponed

Commentators take it for granted that despite a two-week delay, parliament will ratify the request of the two Nordic countries to join NATO.

Reporting on the decision to delay the final vote by two weeks, Magyar Nemzet’s Patrik Máté writes that repeated ‘rude and baseless insults’ against Hungary by Swedish and Finnish politicians make it necessary for Hungarian legislators to send a delegation to ‘settle the dispute’.

The delegation will leave for Helsinki and Stockholm next Tuesday 7 March and the final vote will take place two weeks later. The government, he writes, is committed to approving Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership, which is only opposed by the far-right Mi Hazánk party in Parliament.

On the HVG website, Tibor Lengyel interprets the delay as well as the trip of the delegation to Sweden and Finland as a ‘political move’ rather than an opportunity for serious negotiations.

Once all representatives of the ruling party have expressed support for the two countries’ membership, Lengyel sees no reason why Parliament should vote otherwise, regardless of the results of the talks the delegation will conduct in the two Nordic capitals.

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