Orbán: There are no liberals, only communists with university degrees

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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said at his yearly state of the nation address on Sunday that since Fidesz re-entered government in 2010, the country had experienced its most successful decade in the last 100 years. He emphasized the success of his government's economic policies, but said that rather than celebrating a "golden age", the alarm must be sounded over crises like climate change, demographic changes and gathering clouds over Europe's economic future.

Hungary's social and national economic policies, which freed the country from the grasp of the IMF, has led to criticism from liberals in Brussels and at home, Orbán said. Those levelling the loudest criticisms are those who "nearly bankrupted the country before 2010", he said, adding, "There are no liberals, only communists with university degrees." 

In an attempt to appeal to younger voters, a demographic that elections in October showed was moving away from Fidesz, Orbán directly addressed young people and suggested that their generation was unaware of how the country was run before 2010 during the period of what he called "nightmare socialist governance". Youth that consider aligning with Hungary's liberal parties do so out of inexperience with the prior government, Orbán said, adding, "Those that have never seen a bear do not fear them, but you should know that bears are not toys."  

The prime minister devoted much of his speech to climate change, taking a significantly stronger position on the topic compared to his international press conference in January where he declared that Hungary and its economy would simply be able to adapt to changes in the climate. On Sunday, he spoke of a mounting climate crisis, and announced a raft of environmental initiatives that the government would undertake. 

The seven-step plan included bringing an end to illegal waste disposal beginning July 1, protecting rivers from foreign pollution, banning single-use plastics, requiring multinational companies to use eco-friendly technologies and providing subsidies to SMEs for adopting renewable energy sources, increasing solar capacity, planting ten new trees for each child born in Hungary, subsidizing electric vehicles and buses, and introducing "green state bonds." 

Several environmental groups including Greenpeace and Fridays for Future later reacted to the plan, saying that it contains few new elements and does not go far enough toward achieving carbon neutrality. Parties like Párbeszéd and LMP also downplayed the potential effectiveness of the plan, with LMP co-chair Erzsébet Schmuck calling it "greenwashing". 

Orbán delivers his State of the Nation address.Fotó: botost/444.hu

Orbán also addressed the government's announcement of a new "national consultation", saying Hungarians must be consulted on matters which "damage their sense of justice". The consultation will deal in part with financial compensation paid to former prisoners who experienced inhumane conditions and to Roma who were victims of school segregation. Orbán said that such claims for compensation were orchestrated by "foreign-funded organizations that are part of the Soros network". 

The Kúria, Hungary's highest court, is set to hold a hearing on the Gyöngyöspata case in April.

Mi Hazánk, neo-fascist groups hold anti-Roma demonstrations in Borsod county

Radical right-wing party Mi Hazánk Movement and associated neo-fascist groups held two demonstrations in Borsod county on Sunday in opposition to what they called "Gypsy crime". 

The demonstrators, which included members of extremist groups Hatvannégy Vármegye, Betyársereg and the banned Magyar Gárda, were mobilized by Mi Hazánk chairman László Toroczkai following the January murder of a 61-year-old woman in the nearby village of Sály. The suspect, a 21-year-old Roma man, allegedly beat the woman to death in her home after she refused his request for money. 

Toroczkai, who last year called a similar anti-Roma demonstration of radical-right supporters in the town of Törökszentmiklós, promised that he would organize additional actions in the future.

The first demonstration gathered in front of the Borsod county government office in Miskolc where Mi Hazánk representatives decried the "disappearance of the Hungarian state" in many of the county's towns, which they said had become "no-go zones". 

Mi Hazánk chairman László Toroczkai marches in Sály.Fotó: botost/444.hu

A counter demonstration organized by local and national Roma groups gathered on a nearby square, separated from the Mi Hazánk demonstration by several police cordon lines. Speakers at the counter protest, which reportedly attracted several hundred demonstrators, warned that such racist movements must be stopped before they are able to proliferate. 

"We've been living here for 700 years, and we're going to stay here and obey the law!" said chairman of the Miskolc Roma Self-government Ernő Lakatos.

Following the Miskolc demonstration, both groups travelled to the village of Sály where a major police presence again kept the demonstrations separate. Toroczkai led a procession of torch-wielding sympathizers through the village to the home of the murdered woman, where he implored his followers to "revive the spirit of national resistance". 

Opposition candidate takes Dunaújváros by-election

Joint opposition candidate Gergely Kálló won a decisive victory at a by-election in the city of Dunaújváros on Sunday, the first such parliamentary election in which all major opposition parties ran a single joint candidate. 

Kálló, a member of Jobbik, took around 56% of the vote while his nearest competitor, Fidesz-backed independent candidate Tibor Molnár, received under 38%.

The by-election was called after the previous MP from Dunaújváros, Jobbik's Tamás Pintér, won the city's mayoral election in October, forcing him to give up his parliamentary seat. The seat remains in Jobbik's hands with Kálló's victory. 

As 444's Péter Magyari points out, Kálló won the seat far more decisively than his predecessor had with 56% of the vote compared to Pintér's 2018 result of 43.5%, suggesting the opposition's ability to unify behind a single candidate as they did in municipal elections in October could be successfully replicated in parliamentary races. 

Left-of-center parties including MSZP, DK, LMP, Párbeszéd and Momentum all got behind Kálló despite his political past as a member of the extreme right-wing party MIÉP and his friendly posture toward neo-fascist satellite groups.

National Cultural Council holds its first meeting

A new governmental body tasked with overseeing cultural production held its first meeting on Wednesday in the Prime Minister's office at the invitation of Viktor Orbán. 

The National Cultural Council, created through a controversial law passed in December, is intended to provide "unified governmental direction of the cultural sector" by advising the government on cultural strategy. That law, which provoked widespread backlash from cultural leaders, workers and citizens, states that the Hungarian government is responsible for preserving national culture and strengthening national identity.

The council is made up of the president of the Hungarian Academy of Arts and the leaders of 17 so-called "strategic cultural institutions", including the National Theatre, State Opera House, National Museum, National Film Institute, and others.  

Also present on the council is Szilárd Demeter, head of the Petőfi Literary Museum, who was widely seen as one of the masterminds behind the creation of the law on culture. Before suddenly being amended in December, a draft proposal of the law would have created the National Cultural Center, a vaguely-defined central body that would oversee several branches of cultural production with Demeter at its head.

Orbán and Trump discuss migration in telephone call

US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán shared a telephone call on Monday where they discussed current international issues and the importance of border security, according to Orbán's deputy press secretary Bertalan Havasi.

The two men also discussed illegal immigration and the Middle East, Havasi said. Trump reportedly asked Orbán to convey his "appreciation for the successful and great Hungarian people". 

Pécs to host Pride Parade in spring

The city of Pécs in Baranya county will be the first Hungarian city outside of Budapest to host a Pride Parade, Szabad Pécs reports.

Fotó: Adrián Zoltán/Képszerkesztőség

The parade, a celebration of LGBTQ achievements and civil rights, will cap off the six-day "Freedom of My Identity Human Rights Festival" in the city, and is organized by the Diverse Youth Network, a local NGO. The festival will include film screenings, cultural programs and discussions, culminating with the parade on May 16. 

The organizers have announced that Szeged could be the next Hungarian city to host its own Pride Parade. 

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