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Weeklies on the government’s sovereignty protection campaign

November 27th, 2023

As the government launches a national consultation on its differences with Brussels, asks Parliament to adopt a Sovereignty Protection Bill, and accompanies those two actions with a billboard campaign, opposition-leaning weeklies accuse it of acting against the national interest, while their pro-government counterparts argue that protecting national sovereignty is of key importance.

In its first page editorial, Magyar Narancs finds it hypocritical of the government side to bar foreign funding from political campaigns in Hungary. The three to four billion forints worth of foreign donations to opposition NGOs ahead of last year’s elections, they write, pale into insignificance beside the 25 billion that pro-government NGOs stuffed with public money spent on the Fidesz campaign. They also mention that before 2010, while Fidesz was part of the European People’s Party, it was regularly funded by the German Christian Democratic parties.

In his Heti Világgazdaság editorial, János Dobszay believes under normal conditions it would be impossible for any government to attack in public someone it expects help from. By putting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the billboards as someone who wants Hungarians to ‘dance to her tune’, he writes, the government is taking up arms against someone who could be its idol – a Christian Democrat mother of seven, and who could also be useful in unblocking frozen EU funds to Hungary.

In Magyar Hang, Attila Tibor Nagy takes the billboard campaign featuring Ursula von der Leyen as an indication that Prime Minister Orbán has lost hope in reaching an agreement with the European Commission on the release of EU funds frozen because of rule of law concerns. However, he adds, Mrs von der Leyen’s mandate will expire next summer, and the Hungarian Prime Minister may hope that the European Parliamentary elections next year will yield better bargaining conditions for the Hungarian government.

In Élet és Irodalom, János Széky also believes that the government wouldn’t have put the president of the European Commission on its sovereignty campaign billboards if it hoped to get access to the dozens of billions of EU funds that are withheld. However, he doesn’t expect political conditions to change in favour of the Hungarian government as a result of the EP elections. He predicts that the new president of the European Commission will also come from the ranks of the People’s Party and even suspects that Donald Tusk, the winner of the latest elections in Poland might return to Brussels, making things even more difficult for the Hungarian government than they are at present. The government side, Széky writes, may well score a sweeping victory at home at the EP elections next year, but that would not make it any easier for it to sell itself to the ’Brussels public’.

In Magyar Demokrata, Gábor Bencsik dismisses accusations of dictatorship or autocracy levelled by the opposition against the government over rule of law concerns. In reality, he asserts, Hungarians are not afraid to voice their opinions in public, and if the majority votes for the government it is because it agrees with its policies. On the other hand, the opposition loses the elections, because on most issues it is wrong according to the majority.

In Mandiner, Gergely Vágvölgyi takes up the defence of the Sovereignty Protection Bill tabled by the government last week. He finds it only too fair to punish those who ‘sell their country for dollars’. Meanwhile, he adds that such punishment only targets those who accept foreign donations for electoral campaigns – which has already been banned for the past 33 years. Otherwise, he adds, even NGOs financed from foreign sources have no reason to worry, as the new legislation only intends to make such cases transparent and thus expose the bias of organisations financed from abroad.





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