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July 28th, 2011

PM Orbán Viktor’s speech last Saturday in Transylvania has been harshly criticized by left-wing commentators, most of whom are worried that Orbán is planning to turn Hungary away from the West, in order to strengthen Eastern partnerships. A liberal conservative analyst finds the real problem among left-wing pundits is taking a mistaken quotation for granted without checking the source, and by doing so, distorting Orbán’s message completely.

As Budapost reported, left-wing commentators reflecting on Viktor Orbán’s speech in Transylvania focused exclusively on the prime minister’s statements about the alleged ‘decline of the West.’ Among other comments, Orbán said that Western welfare states, crippled by debt, are in decline, and that the future belongs to what he called a work-based Eastern economic model. He added that his country is “accelerating away” from a troubled West which is even now running deeper into crisis. HVG Online – a single source –  also quoted Orbán as saying that the West had only been a “prison”, or at best a “temporary shelter” for Hungary.

Left-wing pundits fear that the PM’s new vision signals a possible geopolitical repositioning of Hungary, and that the government is planning to strengthen ties with Eastern states, at the cost of existing partnerships with the West. Following HVG Online’s report, liberal blogger Árpád W. Tóta in Index went so far as to suggest that Orbán had hinted again at the “possibility of life outside Europe, which has always been a temporary shelter for us.” This was a reference to a statement made by Mr Orbán a decade ago, when he was negotiating the terms of Hungary’s accession to the EU.

If one reads the second part of Orbán’s sentence, it becomes apparent that it meant something completely different. Orbán said that ‘there is life outside the European Union, but this is not we are preparing for,” political analyst Ferenc Kumin, previously  spokesman of former President László Sólyom, reflects on Tóta’s blog entry.

Kumin explains that Mr Orbán’s latest speech was simply misquoted. The expression “prison or rather a temporary shelter“ did not refer to the West as reported by HVG but to the “old world.” HVG online did in fact correct this mistake – Kumin remarks.

“I do not expect my readers to listen to the whole speech, but knowing the context is a prerequisite of understanding what was meant by ‘the old world’. Orbán spoke about the consumer and the welfare state, a model that has put many Western countries in a precarious situation”, writes Kumin.

According to Kumin, the prime minister did not suggest that Western civilization is in decline. He only meant that the West appears clueless and without a recipe to solve the crisis, so Central European countries cannot expect that simply copying Western strategies will work for them this time, as they did in the past.

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