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Weeklies on PM Orbán’s state of the nation address

February 24th, 2020

Weeklies and weekend editions of Hungarian dailies discuss the broader implications of the Prime Minister’s annual state of the nation speech, with special emphasis on the green ideas embraced by Viktor Orbán.

Magyar Demokrata’s editor-in-chief András Bencsik takes as the Prime Minister’s main message his pledge to put Hungary first and to defend Hungary’s traditional values (see BudaPost February 18). The pro-government columnist welcomes this message as important not only for Hungary, but for Europe as well. Bencsik finds it exemplary that Hungary stands firm while in Europe, ‘Christianity is being replaced by Islam and pro-gay ideologies.’

In a front page editorial in Élet és Irodalom, János Széky contends that the Hungarian Prime Minister has only one strategic aim: to fight against liberal democracy. According to the liberal commentator, Mr Orbán’s strategic alliances make clear that he is willing to cooperate with any anti-liberal, nationalist and ‘pro-Putin’ politician, irrespective of ideological differences or proximity and regardless of Hungary’s geopolitical interests.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Zoltán Lakner acknowledges that the past decade has been a macroeconomic success for Hungary. The left-wing analyst, however, notes that growth has been very uneven throughout the country, and poor regions have failed to catch up at all with the more developed parts of Hungary. He suggests that middle class families and voters have been the primary beneficiaries of the government’s low tax policies and increased family subsidies. Lakner finds it particularly disappointing that the quality of education has failed to improve. In conclusion, Lakner suspects that the current economic slowdown deepens in Europe, Hungary will be unprepared to face the challenge.

In an interview with Nyugat.hu, Gábor Török calls attention to the new topics picked up by Prime Minister Orbán in his speech. In addition to the slogans he has been using for a while, Viktor Orbán added climate protection, the centrist political analyst points out. (In his speech, PM Orbán announced plans to ban plastic bags, clean up illegal garbage dumps, close coal plants, promote solar energy and subsidize electric car and bus purchases.) Török thinks that by embracing green ideas, the Prime Minister wants to take the wind out of the sails of the opposition, and claim ownership of environmentalist ideas.

Népszava’s Miklós Hargitai describes the announced environmental plans as ‘smoke and mirrors’. The left-wing columnist accuses the government of luring into Hungary western factories that harm the environment. Hargitai also thinks that the de facto nationalization of waste collection resulted in more illegal garbage. In light of this, Hargitai thinks that the PM’s green turn is just another stunt intended to weaken the Left which has also embraced green ideas.

In Magyar Nemzet, Gyula Haraszti finds it quite natural that the opposition and its intellectual hinterland is surprised by PM Orbán’s plans to tackle climate change. The pro-government commentator, however, dismisses accusations that the announced green plans are only intended to pre-empt green criticism levelled against the government by the opposition. Haraszti contends that the government is indeed taking environmental considerations seriously. In fact, it has done far more than left-wing politicians who loudly advocate green ideas, but do little to stop global warming, Haraszti claims. As an example, he mentions Budapest Mayor Karácsony’s decision to announce a climate emergency, which has had no tangible consequences whatsoever.