What’s up Hungary? Seeking new political formations within the EU3 min read

Laura Royer

– On the 2nd of August, the Roma Genocide Remembrance day was commemorated in Budapest. Estimations report that about 250,000 Roma people were murdered between 1938 and 1945 in Europe, among which were approximately 5,000 Hungarian Roma.

– Between the 8th and the 15th of August, the 26th edition of the Sziget festival took place on Óbudai-sziget in Budapest, where 565,000 visitors gathered from all around the world.

– Overlapping with the Sziget, another kind of festival was held on the weekend of the 10th of August. Since 2008, the Kurultáj (“meeting of the tribes”) has taken place in the locality of Bugac, in the Great Hungarian Plain. Resting on the controversial assumption that Hungarians have Turkic origins, this event aims to gather the Turkic nations to celebrate and revive ancient nomadic traditions. While it originally had strong ties with the Hungarian far-right, the festival has nowadays simply become state-sponsored. Indeed, it indirectly supports the “Eastern Opening”, a recent foreign policy movement towards Eastern partners such as China or Turkey.

– This year has been a record year for tourism in Hungary, with tourism increasing by 5.3% from 2017. As the Prime Minister’s office communiqué put it, tourism is not only a great economic resource, but also a way to promote the image of Hungary abroad – particularly in the current boisterous political context.

– The head of the Prime Minister’s office, Gergely Gulyás, announced on the 14th of August that the state would stop financing the gender studies curriculum in the Hungarian universities, evoking a low number of registered students. Most of the analysts agree, however, that the decision is in line with recent attempts by the government to weaken the liberal wing of academia.

– Between July and November 2018, the Hungarian National Gallery welcomes an exhibition presenting the work of Frida Kahlo. As cultural events are seemingly becoming pretexts to political attacks (in June, the musical Billy Elliot had been accused of “gay propaganda” and several representations had been cancelled), the same pro-governmental newspaper Magyar Idők started a polemic on the 14th of August, arguing that the exhibition is in fact promoting communism with public money. The journalist didn’t appreciate the references to Trotsky, who had an affair with Kahlo between 1937 and 1939.

– The foundation of the Hungarian state was celebrated with fireworks on the 20th of August. It is a day where Hungarians remember St. Stephen, the first Christian king of the country.

– The Hungarian NGO Migration Aid, an organization that provides support to asylum-seekers, announced on the 24th of August that it would cease operation in the coming months. This decision is a direct consequence of the new law taxing 25% of donations to organizations that present migration “in a positive light”.

– Viktor Orbán met Italian Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini in Milan on the 28th of August. According to the Hungarian Spectrum, the discussion mostly revolved around Salvini’s idea to create a new political formation within the European Parliament. However, an alliance might be impossible to build as long as Fidesz belongs to the European People’s Party. For further reflection on the topic, have a look at our recent published article “Orbán’s Christian Europe: A Europhile Far-Right” by Jules Ortjens.

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

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.