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National sovereignty in focus

December 8th, 2014

Left-wing analysts accuse the government of dismissing every internal and external criticism of its work as an attempt to curb Hungarian national sovereignty. A right-wing columnist claims that Hungarians have a very negative image of the US and the EU.

When asked in his regular bi-weekly Friday radio interview about Senator McCain’s “neo-Fascist comment” (see BudaPost December 5), PM Orbán said “Hungary’s independence is under attack”. He added that those who benefitted from Hungary’s dependence before 2010 do not like the idea that the country is trying to become sovereign in terms of energy, banking and trade. “I am not willing to be the viceroy of a foreign power,” Viktor Orbán said.

PM Orbán likes to frame any criticism he gets as an attack on national independence, Népszabadság writes in a front page editorial. By suggesting that national sovereignty is under threat, Mr Orbán can claim that all his policies are intended to defend the national interest against enemies. Before 2010, Orbán often criticized the former socialist-liberal coalition for bowing to Moscow. Now he believes that the national interest must be defended against intrusion from multinationals, Brussels and, most recently, Senator McCain.

In Népszava, Tamás Mészáros contends that while PM Orbán claims to defend national interests, he eventually hurts the interests of all Hungarians. The left-wing columnist claims that Mr Orbán does not simply target those whom he identifies as external enemies, but also likes to suggest that his domestic critics are pursuing foreign interests. The complaints of Senator McCain and others, Mészáros believes, were aimed at the government rather than Hungary itself. In conclusion, Mészáros predicts that it will become increasingly harder for the Prime Minister to convince even his core supporters that his primary aim is to fight for national sovereignty.

In the past 25 years, the image held by Hungarians of the US and Russia have switched, András Bencsik in Magyar Demokrata comments on an opinion poll published in the same weekly. According to the poll, Hungarians consider the US and the EU as the foreign powers least friendly to Hungary. On a scale of 1 to 5, the US received the lowest grade (1.7), while the EU came in the second worst (2.2). Russia (3.5) was seen as a much less hostile state. The friendliest countries were Poland (4.3), Germany (4.0), Austria (4.0) and China (3.8). (Demokrata’s regular weekly poll is often criticized as amateurish, as it is based on the answers of 500 randomly chosen respondents in a central square in Budapest.) Bencsik finds it telling that among young Hungarians, the perception of the US is extremely negative. The pro-government commentator suspects that the negative image of the US is due to the fact that Washington “ignores Hungary’s national interests”.

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