What’s up Hungary? Orbán visits Israel and Pride is celebrated in Budapest4 min read

Laura Royer

– German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Berlin on the 5th of July. This meeting occurred in the midst of rather tense relations between the two leaders, notably on the migration issue, which was brought up often during their joint press conference.

On the 7th of July, the Gay Pride parade was celebrated on the streets of Budapest. Homosexual couples are still forbidden to marry and adopt in Hungary, a situation that seems unlikely to change as the Hungarian constitution (2011) states that “Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of a man and a woman established by voluntary decision, and the family as the basis of the nation’s survival”(article L1).

– The Balaton-átúszás (the crossing of the Balaton lake, the biggest in Central Europe) took place on the 14th of July. During this annual event, thousands of people took the plunge and swam the 5,200 meters between Révfülöp and Balatonboglár.

– On the 15th of July, the World Cup Final between Croatia and France gave rise to surprising comments in the Hungarian media. While MP István Hollik declared on Facebook that the game was in fact a match between an “immigration” and a “Christian” country, the journalist András Bencsik believed that Croatia would have won against (implied “real”) French.

– On the 17th of July, the local government ordered the temporary closure of Corvin Club, an electronic club in Budapest, following a police raid where drugs were found. However, according to unofficial sources, the closure could actually be motivated by economic tensions between interest circles close to the government and the owner.

– On the 19th of July, Orbán paid Israel a visit for a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He reassured Netanyahu that Jews are safe in Hungary, a statement made after the government’s recent anti-Soros (Hungarian-born Jewish multi billionaire) campaign. In fact, the two statesmen have all interest in maintaining cordial relations: “A Hungarian patriot and a Jewish Israeli patriot will always find something in common” said Orbán, and both of them agreed that “the threat of radical Islam is a real one”. According to some analysts, Netanyahu also considers Hungary as a possible gateway to the EU in order to block any European initiative unfavorable to Israel on the Palestinian question.

– The Hungarian Parliament adopted a law criminalizing homelessness on the 20th of July. After 3 warnings, the “offenders” could be subject to community service or prison. Following the estimations, there are between 30,000 and 50,000 homeless people in Hungary.

On the same day, the Parliament voted through an amendment taxing 25% of donations to organizations that present migration “in a positive light”.

– On the 27th of July, Orbán said on the radio that the days of the European Commission are “numbered” (the Juncker Commission will stop serving in 2019) and therefore its decisions irrelevant. This declaration comes after the European Commission referred Hungary to the EU Court of Justice over the new “Stop Soros” law package (June) criminalizing support to migrants.

– Orbán gave a speech in Băile Tuşnad/Tusnádfürdő (Transylvania, Romania) on the 29th of July, at the same place where he had announced the rise of “illiberal democracies” in 2014. This year, he declared the advent of a “political system based on national and Christian foundations” and set an ambitious agenda for Hungary’s development: “With a time horizon of 2030 in mind, we want Hungary to become one of the European Union’s five best countries in which to live and work … we want to be among the EU’s five most competitive countries … we should halt our demographic decline … we should physically link Hungary within its present-day borders with the other areas: motorways and dual carriageways should extend as far as the state borders … let Hungary become independent in terms of its energy supply, which has become an important dimension of security.”

– Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó announced on the 31st of July that BMW will build a plant in Debrecen (Eastern Hungary), creating more than one thousand jobs. “The project will contribute to Hungary’s competitiveness and will further strengthen Hungarian-German economic relations” he said.

Main sources: Hungarian Spectrum (EN)Le Courrier d’Europe Centrale (FR), Le Monde (FR), Reuters (EN)

Laura Royer is currently taking part in the CEERES program at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Originally from France, she started to investigate national identity in Central and Eastern Europe in order to stop pondering about her own. She is interested in nationalism, minorities and migration-related issues. Besides, she also cultivates a tenacious passion for the Hungarian language.