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Weeklies on Hungary’s attitude towards the war in Ukraine

March 13th, 2023

Pro-opposition commentators accuse the government of condoning Russia’s aggression when it opposes the sanctions being imposed on Russia. Pro-government authors praise what they see as the only independent voice in Europe.

In his customary Magyar Hang editorial, Szabolcs Szerető thinks Hungary has remained alone in its efforts to preserve as much as possible from its economic ties with Russia. By contrast, in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, he explains, Germany had to abandon her traditional Ostpolitik of keeping its eyes shut to Russian authoritarianism. Instead, the German government now provides weapons and ammunition to Ukraine.

In his front-page Élet és Irodalom column, Zoltán Kovács describes the trip of official Fidesz delegates to Sweden and Finland before Parliament ratifies the NATO membership of those countries as a ridiculous exercise. Hungarian leaders have all stated plainly that they are in favour of the two Nordic countries’ requests to join the North Atlantic alliance. Keeping them waiting for the past eight months, and despatching at the last minute ‘insignificant delegates’ to protest against their criticism of Hungary’s rule of law compliance, was a simple farce, Kovács writes.

Magyar Narancs, evaluates the trip of the four delegates to Scandinavia as a clumsy attempt to release EU funds destined to Hungary, but frozen pending improvements in the rule of law landscape. Instead of achieving that goal, however, Prime Minister Orbán may draw the United States, NATO’s number one power, into his dispute with the European Union. What follows from that, the liberal editors write, is a weakening of the Prime Minister’s position – and Hungary’s.

In a sarcastic piece in Heti Világgazdaság, Márton Gergely suggests that once the Fidesz delegates found themselves in Scandinavia, the land of prefab furniture, they should have asked for the blueprint of a democratic system that would allow Hungary to keep its place within the EU and NATO. As he sees it however, the government lacks even the slightest intention to comply with the rule of law criteria which would be an indispensable condition for achieving that.

In Jelen, Tamás Fóti lambasts the Prime Minister, who accuses the European Union of irresponsibly fuelling the fire in Ukraine. Hungarians, the Prime Minister said (i.e. ethnic Hungarians from western Ukraine), have already lost their lives in the war, unlike ‘Brusselites’ who find it so easy to talk about weapons and sanctions. As Fóti sees it, the Prime Minister’s appeal for an immediate ceasefire rhymes with those of Germany’s far left and far right politicians, who believe that their country should not support Ukraine because by doing so it only prolongs the war.

Mandiner’s Gergely Szilvay argues against those who believe intervening on the Ukraine side is a moral duty. He concedes that the Russian invasion is hardly justifiable. However, according to Christian ethics, he writes, intervening in a war is never a moral duty. Nor is it forbidden, he adds, but only if one is thoroughly convinced that there is a chance to defeat the aggressor. The same goes for indirect intervention, Szilvay concludes, like sanctions or weapon supplies.

In Demokrata, András Bencsik believes the sanctions imposed on Russia have significantly weakened Europe, and he sees no one in Brussels or in the member countries who would try and stop the processes which lead to Europe’s decline. Hungary, he asserts, is the only country within the European Union to point out what is happening and to take steps to ‘avoid the thump’.

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