Entries RSS Feed Share Send to Facebook Tweet This Accessible version

Snowstorm reveals Hungary’s weaknesses and strengths

March 19th, 2013

A pro-government daily accuses the opposition of launching an irresponsible attack on the government after a snowstorm blocked major roads for several days, but also calls for the Prime Minister to explain what caused the delay in clearing the roads.

Over the holiday weekend, from March 14th to March 17th, more than a hundred roads were blocked by snowdrifts and several thousand cars and lorries were left stranded on the main Budapest to Vienna motorway – some for up to 24 hours. Drivers and passengers reacted angrily over social media to a text message sent by the Interior Ministry to Hungarian mobile phone subscribers, advising them to wait for rescuers, and, if they ran out of fuel for heating, to try to find a place in another car. (See BudaPost March 18th).

This national emergency had one advantage, Magyar Nemzet’s Szabolcs Szerető writes in an editorial: it revealed what is and what is not working in Hungary. He says the opposition ’with a thousand faces, from internet-mood-setters to political parties,’ used the occasion to spread  the ’primitive’ message that Prime Minister Orbán had ’abandoned’ people in stressful situations and that the Civil Protection Force did not respond in time. Who would benefit from such a ’communication offensive’, he asks, during times of crisis? Ordinary citizens, on the other hand, went out of their way to provide support for people stranded in their cars in the cold – showing a face of Hungary that anyone can be proud of. The author admits however, that ’after discounting media manipulations,’ he still felt uneasy about the rescue operations. The Interior Ministry might be right in asking why people set out in their cars in the first place, he explains, but ’even politicians and families with small children were stranded,’ and the government cannot leave people in the lurch simply because they act irresponsibly. (The emergency units did extricate the President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences from his car.) Although extreme weather is difficult to avoid, the author notes, he looks forward to hearing the Prime Minister’s explanation. But whatever he might say, he adds in a sad tone, the chances are that this national holiday will go down as ’two parallel stories’ for Hungarians.

Tags: ,