Who is Who?
Chancellor of Germany
born 17 July 1954
She is the leader of the
She is the first woman
Prime Minister of Hungary
born 31 May 1963
The first members were
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Merkel’s Reason for Visiting Hungary
In early February, Merkel broke the long-established policy of refraining from travel to Hungary over any dictatorial policies enforced by Orbán Viktor. She wished to persuade the authoritarian prime minister that a united Western front against Russia in regards to the crisis in Ukraine is desperately needed.
Placing One School of Thought Over the Rest is Wrong… unless it is Orbán Viktor’s School of thought
Something very interesting happened during Orbán’s meeting with Angela Merkel. Mrs. Merkel politely pointed out:
“If [Orbán] has a very large majority as Prime Minister of Hungary, it’s very important in a democracy, to appreciate the role of the opposition, the role of civil society, the role of the media.”
This rational logic was apparently too much for myopic Orbán to handle in one meeting, and he responded,
“Not all democracies have to be liberal. Those who say that democracy is necessarily liberal are trying to put one school of thought above the rest, and we’re not going to grant that privilege.”
Interesting… Putting one school of thought above the rest? Now, that must sound familiar to Mr. Orbán. Isn’t this very principle what he thrives on as prime minister—cough cough—dictator?
But surely curbing freedom of the press and limiting the activities of NGOs are not putting his own school of thought above the rest. Oh, and not to mention casually indulging in alteration of electoral laws to favor his own party. But that is okay because…well…he says so.
Of course, his way is the good way, or so it seems.
“Our communists are the good communists” – communist era proverb in Hungary.
Deconstructing Orbán’s “illiberal democracy”
I think it is important to address this so called “illiberal democracy” because at first glance it seems like an oxymoron. Sure, we have seen examples of “illiberal democracies” throughout history. Yet, I personally reject the concept of an illiberal democracy because I feel as if any country that is not liberal cannot truly be a democracy.
hile states such as Serbia (under Slobodan Milosevic), Zimbabwe, and post-Soviet Russia are sometimes referred to as examples of “illiberal democracies” due to the fact that sharply contested elections were still held, they still leaned strongly towards authoritarian behavior, and can therefore not be considered truly democratic.
I think a more fitting term, which was first coined by Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way, is competitive authoritarian states.
After all, liberalism and democracy are like peanut butter and jelly (or whatever the saying is). Democracy in and of itself simply means by the rule of the people. Liberal simply means that the government does not possess complete control over the people.
Because the fundamental principles of democracy buttress the rule of the people, does it really make sense to have a democracy in which the peoples’ rights are severely restricted? It is without a doubt that a government cannot have complete control over the people in a democracy—that would instead be termed a monarchy, or dictatorship, or oligarchy, etc.
Thus, in the modern sense of the word, “democracy” almost always suggests a liberal one. It all has to do with natural, human, inalienable rights—The rights that originated from liberalism itself—from the concept of freedom in its purest form.
So, when Orbán Viktor suggested a democracy in which natural freedom is restricted, I couldn’t help but think of Rousseau.
I’m sure you know Rousseau.
The guy who wrote The Social Contract and stated,
“freedom is not a fruit of every climate, and it is not therefore within the capacity of every people.”
I’m sure that Orbán would agree with Rousseau in this case… But then again, Rousseau also said,
Always justify the burdens you impose upon girls but impose them anyway. . . . They must be thwarted from an early age. . . . They must be exercised to constraint, so that it costs them nothing to stifle all their fantasies to submit them to the will of others.”
This in itself should say a lot about Rousseau’s skewed perception of the world…
How Other Parties Reacted to Everything
The opposition Socialists (MSZP) welcomed and greeted Merkel who stood strongly by her social, Christian and liberal values. Hungary’s democratic opposition seems to think similarly of democracy as Merkel, as opposed to Orbàn, who, as party leader József Tóbiás accurately stated,
“said ‘no’ to a system built on human freedoms.”
Moreover, the left-wing opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) deemed the press conference with Merkel “pathetic”, while accusing Orbán of lies. DK also contended that Merkel had politely—“Not loudly but very clearly”—denounced the operation of the Hungarian government.
The opposition green LMP insisted that Orbán should, as Merkel advised, expand energy supplies to become more diverse and treat NGOs as partners, not enemies.
The LMP party’s co-leader also stated that Orbán should recognize that his concept of an illiberal democracy has not been met with much support within his own party group in Europe. The EGYÜTT (Together) party summed everything up by saying that Orbán has failed to abide by core European values.
He has only driven Hungary further away from a unified Europe.
At Least Merkel and Orbán Agree on One Thing…
Both Merkel and Orbán agreed that it is wise to not arm Ukrainian government forces with weapons that would be used against the Russian-supported separatists. Sensible Merkel clearly stated, “Germany will not support Ukraine with weapons.”
She continued to explain that this ongoing battle couldn’t be effectively resolved with military intervention. She added that her country would do everything to resolve the conflict through negotiations. At least she seems to have the right idea.
Orbán’s bromance with Putin
Later last month Putin paid a visit shortly after Merkel’s unpleasant trip to Hungary.
Unsurprisingly, Orbán praised Putin’s marvelous “illiberal democracy”. Orbán is known to be openly critical of EU sanctions, and he still remains in favor of the close ties his government has maintained with Russia.
He said he could not imagine an EU which did not utilize Russian energy resources and raw materials. This was a major source of conflict between Merkel and Orbán during their meeting due to the fact that this year, Hungary’s long-term gas supply contract is expiring.
Orbán expressed Hungary’s need for a great quantity of natural gas from Russia. He stated that “this is the problem” must be solved sooner than later, because otherwise Hungary’s households and industry be rendered incapable of functioning.
On the other hand, Angela Merkel pointed out the importance of diversifying energy resources to expand past those of Russia. She emphasized the significance of branching out to other predictable and reliable energy supplies.
So was Angela Merkel’s visit in vain?
So the press conference did not go so well, and perhaps the visit was, after all, fruitless. Ultimately, Merkel was plainly angry at Orbán’s domestic policies, and can we blame her?
Unsurprisingly, Orbán did not seem particularly swayed or convinced by Merkel during their more than slightly uncomfortable meeting.
However, ironically, FIDESZ said that the Merkel meeting with Orbán had contributed not only to strengthening bilateral relations but also to building an even stronger Europe… I beg to differ!
Merkel Encountered Even More Trouble While in Hungary
Poor Merkel even had to deal with the shenanigans of Mária Schmidt, a historian of the Holocaust and director of the controversial House of Terror museum, which was established during the first Orbán administration. Schmidt had written a letter to Merkel on January 20 inviting her to a reception in the House of Terror to honor
“ordinary citizens who [in 1989] risked everything as opposed to the political leaders of the regime who were only following the lead of the heroic civilians.”
Schmidt also expressed in the letter that she hoped Merkel would help “light a candle for the victims of communism”. Councilor Maximilian Spinner responded briefly and bluntly on behalf of Angela Merkel, stating,
“Unfortunately, such a visit is impossible due the limited amount of time available.”
It is important to note that German Nazi Party did contribute to the killings of million in WWII, they had nothing to do with communism in Hungary.
Schmidt was utterly incensed at this response. She called Angela Merkel “the heartless chancellor.” She accused the Germans of never thanking these “brave civilians,” and of only thanking the Hungarian government that existed “during the still functioning communist dictatorship.”
In an interview with Origo, Schmidt continued on her tangent of fury, accusing Merkel of “insolence” and stating that Merkel talked like a “left-liberal” instead of a Christian Democrat.
Because, you know, talking like a “left-liberal” should be punished with eternal damnation in hell apparently. I can only imagine the many exasperated sighs that overcame Merkel during her stay in Hungary.
The zealous response from thousands of Hungarians
Several thousand people (approximately between 3,000 and 4,000) took to the streets of Budapest to express their frustration and dissatisfaction with the prime minister’s right-wing FIDESZ party.
They even called out for Merkel’s help while she was there, beseeching her help to save Hungary, while also urging Orbán to stay true to the Hungarian government’s Western ties and keep a safe distance from Putin’s Russia.
One sign written in German read, “Our Angela, deliver us from evil, we want to remain EU citizens.” These rallies extended far beyond Budapest, with similar protests being held at the same time in 11 other Hungarian towns, and six more cities throughout Europe including Amsterdam and London.
One protester stated,
“We dislike the directed democracy, the kind of dictatorship Putin has built in Russia. And this is the direction in which the Orban government is going. European politicians look away, and they can do that because their voters don’t care. We are trying to change that.”
The overall importance of Hungary’s relationship with Germany, and a look into the future
Angela Merkel is arguably the most important advocate of European unity and she has done instrumental work to establish and maintain this sense of unified harmony. A spokesman for the German foreign ministry said simply that Germany’s “relationship with Hungary is important to us,” and also stating that Berlin “wants to nurture it.”
Orbán has emphasized that German investments play a vital role in improving Hungarian employment figures. For instance, 25% of new jobs are stemming from German investments, and six thousand companies have created 300.000 jobs in Hungary. The prime minister stated “these figures demonstrate well that Germany is an inseparable part of Hungarian history.”
Furthermore, a survey by think-tank Nézőpont Institute has discovered Hungarians consider Germany as Hungary’s most important ally and support close political and economic cooperation between the two countries.
More than half of the respondents considered it important to deepen the economic ties between the two countries, illustrating the ever-growing want and need for cooperation, unity, and a sturdy infrastructure to support and encourage the economic bridge between Germany and Hungary, and ultimately the rest of Europe as well.
So why is Mr. Orbán trying to risk it all?
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