Orban aims to make Hungary a 'regional middle power'

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Orban plans to make Hungary a 'regional middle power' in Central Europe

Earlier this month Balazs Orban ( Viktor Orban's political director. No relation to the Prime Minister.) published a piece on the pro-government site Mandiner where he gave readers a glimpse of the Hungarian PM's foreign policy strategy. The article summarizes a speech Viktor Orban gave at a private event. 

According to Balazs Orban's piece, the "strategic challenge Hungary faces is becoming a developed economy and attaining middle power status in Central Europe."  The nationalist prime minister says the main obstacle to achieving these aims is the "fragmentation of the international order, the economic decoupling between the West and China, and the formation of closed economic blocs. The return of the Cold War international order based on blocs would lead to a reduction in international trade and connectivity and threaten to relegate Hungary to insignificance.”

The Hungarian Prime Minister believes that "neoliberal globalization" led to the "hollowing-out of the Western industry" and it strengthened China. These events "resulted in the crisis of the international order". Orbán offers a solution to Hungary:  aim to foster as many connections with the world as possible, whether that be through trade, infrastructure, investment, or public diplomacy. These steps would ensure that Hungary would not be marginalized, and would retain its freedom to manage its relations without interference.

Budapest denounces EU decision to cut off funds to universities run by public trust foundations

On Thursday, Hungary called the European Commission's decision to cut some universities from EU funding unacceptable, Reuters reports. Earlier Nepszava learned that Hungarian universities run by public trust foundations will not receive new grants from the Erasmus exchange program funded by the European Union. 

The reason behind the decision is that "the Orbán government continues to keep foundation-run universities under the control of Fidesz politicians". The EU ban also applies to the Horizon Europe research and innovation framework program. The decision concerns 21 universities in Hungary, including Corvinus University which received 3,5 million euros from Horizon for 11 projects between 2014 and 2020.

During a recent press briefing, Viktor Orban's chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas said the government is open to removing government officials from universities run by public trust foundations. Gulyas said the government would "pay next year's Erasmus fees" if they cannot reach an agreement [with the Commission].

In December, the European Commission said it would hold back 22 billion euros of EU cohesion funds for Hungary over corruption and rule of law concerns - until Budapest meets the requirements.

Orban's salary is above the EU average among other prime ministers

The Hungarian Prime Minister's salary of 58.4 million forints (ca. $158,000) is above the EU average among other European leaders, Euronews reports. The average gross annual salary of an EU prime minister was $143,000 last year, making Orban's income higher than the Spanish, Polish, and Portuguese PMs.

Hungarians on the other hand are suffering from high inflation - the Central European country has the second lowest average annual gross wages in the EU. 

Hungarian teachers to go on national strike in January

The democratic Trade Union of Teachers announced a national strike action from January 23 to January 31. The union called for Sandor Pinter, the minister responsible for education to resign.

Since last fall tens of thousands have marched across Hungary to support teachers and express dissatisfaction against the government in the largest demonstration since 2014. Teachers are protesting against low wages and poor working conditions despite the government's warning that they risk losing their jobs if they do so. Several teachers have previously lost their jobs for 'civil disobedience. During the latest protest, Hungarians marched holding up signs with messages such as  “No teacher, no future”, “Strike is a fundamental right” or: “We want our former teacher back!".