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Weeklies on French riots and the resignation of the Justice Minister

July 10th, 2023

A liberal analyst attributes the week-long rioting throughout France to institutional racism, while a right-wing commentator asks how masses of second and third-generation immigrants can be fully integrated.

Commentators disagree sharply on the reasons behind the resignation of Justice Minister Judit Varga and her new role as lead Fidesz candidate for the European Parliament elections in 2024.

The French riots

In Heti Világgazdaság, Imre Keresztes lays the blame for the grave disturbances in French cities over the past week on police racism and a feeling of hopelessness in urban ghettos inhabited by first, second, and third generation immigrants. He quotes activists who suggest that while earlier, racism in France was mostly confined to right-wing extremists, nowadays it extends to the traditional right wing and even the government itself. He finds it telling that while over €1 million have been raised to support the family of the police officer who shot a young man, only €180,000 has been collected for the family of the victim.

In Demokrata, Gábor Bencsik suggests that masses of immigrants and their descendants form a parallel community which is less and less part of the national consensus, because such people believe that the law is at the service of racist and oppressive powers. For the moment, Bencsik doesn’t see a way to find a new consensus between the majority and that parallel society.

Magyar Hang’s István Dévényi criticises the pro-government view that Hungary is a peaceful country, unlike France, because it doesn’t let masses of immigrants in. He describes whole areas in rural Hungary as ghettos, no-go zones where the ambulance only ventures if accompanied by police cars. Nevertheless, with the exception of knife fights outside local pubs, such regions are peaceful, what’s more, their inhabitants (he avoids the word ‘Gypsies’ to describe them) support the government because it keeps masses of migrants out.

The resignation of the Minister of Justice

In Jelen, Ákos Tóth rejects the official explanation that Ms Varga resigned at her own initiative to become the top Fidesz candidate for the European Parliamentary elections next year. He believes that she was dismissed by Prime Minister Orbán because the scandals involving her department have shaken public trust in the judiciary. (See BudaPost, June 30.) Meanwhile, Tóth also suspects that Ms Varga may become Hungary’s candidate to the European Commission and as such, might improve the Prime Minister’s position within the European Union.

In an interview with Élet és Irodalom, Princeton professor Kim Lane Scheppele, a staunch critic of the Hungarian government, sees Judit Varga’s choice as the top Fidesz EP candidate as a promotion rather than a punishment. She believes Prime Minister Orbán expects her to prepare and oversee Hungary’s rotating EU presidency in the second half of next year.

In Magyar Narancs, Máté Béres also doubts that Ms Varga was dismissed from her job because she was compromised in the scandals involving the Justice Ministry. If that were the case, he explains, she could hardly become the ruling party’s top candidate for the European elections.

In Mandiner, Mátyás Kohán accepts Ms Varga’s explanation that becoming an MEP has always been her ambition. She spent nine years working as an adviser to Fidesz MEPs and has built a large network of personal relations within the European Union, Kohán remarks. He hopes that on that basis she will successfully represent Hungary’s interests in Brussels as an MEP – or possibly even as a European Commissioner.

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