Saturday

31st Oct 2020

Letter

Orban government responds to Human Rights Watch

  • Budapest. Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch accused Viktor Orbán and his ruling Fidesz party of having politicised the courts, decimated independent media, destroyed academic freedom, hobbled civil society, and promoted xenophobia (Photo: Wikimedia)

Dear Editor,

With his opinion article, "Stopping the authoritarian rot in Europe," Kenneth Roth joins what are now dozens of critics who have turned to accommodating international media outlets to criticize the Orbán government and insult the Hungarian people with the charge that Hungary's extraordinary measures to fight Covid-19 amount to "dictatorship."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

What these critics will not tell you is that Hungary's measures – thus far – have been effective in flattening the curve, supporting the health care system, and saving Hungarian lives.

"The data shows," said Ledia Lazeri of the World Health Organization in an interview earlier this week, "that Hungary succeeded in avoiding the exponential growth [of confirmed coronavirus cases]."

They also ignore the fact that these measures are popular with the Hungarian people.

Nearly 60 percent, according to a recent poll, said the extraordinary measures should be extended until the end of the pandemic.

While the director of Human Rights Watch gazes at his navel in Geneva, fretting about "authoritarian rot," the Hungarian people look for a steady hand at the rudder to navigate this storm.

They also conveniently omit the fact that many EU states have imposed a state of emergency and some give the government sweeping powers.

A minister of health in Germany can issue a directive even if there are constitutional concerns that it contradicts the law. The federal government in Switzerland rules via directive, bypassing the legislature. In Spain, the parliament remains in session but cannot question the government.

But Roth and his cohorts seem unconcerned about dictatorship in those countries.

They omit these details because what we're dealing with is not a legal problem, not a "breach" of the rule of law. Quite the contrary.

Roth arrives a couple of weeks late to the party, but copying and pasting from all the other Op-Eds written by western critics who have drawn from the same liberal, Hungarian sources, he levels exactly the same charges we've read so many times before and, like the rest of them, offers nothing to back them up.

"Orbán and his ruling Fidesz party," writes Roth, "have politicised the courts, decimated independent media, destroyed academic freedom, hobbled civil society".

On courts, media, academic freedom and civil society, where the Orbán government actions or laws have been challenged by the European Commission, we have addressed them.

TV and internet media outlets that are staunch critics of the government enjoy a commanding lead in audience share and page views, but according to Roth, Orbán decimated independent media.

Joseph Goebbels, they say, wrote that "if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

They can make outrageous and condescending insults like Roth does – "Ten million EU citizens now live under authoritarian rule" – and none of them have to offer any proof of their claims.

A compliant mainstream media allows them to dismiss, or ignore altogether, the ample, fact-based counter-arguments. It has become, as György Schöpflin wrote recently, a discourse that "is immutable and beyond questioning," claims "that cannot be interrogated."

"To anyone who has lived in a Soviet-type system," adds Schöpflin, "this all sounds very familiar indeed."

Isn't it odd that at a time when Europe faces its most serious crisis in 100 years, a clique of the liberal elite would insist that the most serious problem today is a government in a small country in central Europe doing everything it can to protect the health and economic livelihood of its citizens?

At a time when the action of sovereign national governments have proven effective, it's time to stop the globalist rot undermining European solidarity.

Yours,

Zoltan Kovacs

Author bio

Zoltan Kovacs is the Hungarian government's secretary of state for international communication and relations.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Stopping the authoritarian rot in Europe

A few weeks ago, the European Union underwent a fundamental change: it ceased being a bloc of exclusively democratic states. Even worse - leaders across Europe barely flinched.

Covid-19 is a gift for authoritarians and dictators

From Iran, to Egypt, to Saudi Arabia, to Algeria, to Turkey, to Thailand, and even within the EU bloc with Hungary, the coronavirus pandemic is providing cover for authoritarian leaders to dispense with democracy - and even eliminate opponents.

Coronavirus

Orban granted indefinite 'authoritarian' power

Ushering in a new era for Hungary - and for the EU - the central European country becomes the first to be ruled by decree, after Orban's party forced virus emergency laws through parliament.

New push to kick Orban's party out of centre-right EPP

Member parties from the largest European political family have called for the expulsion of their Hungarian partner - again. This time, two prime ministers joined, but so far the heavyweights have again stayed away.

Column

The slow death of EU Christian Democracy

Before World War Two, Christian parties' commitment to democracy was far from unequivocal. But after the war, Christian Democratic parties adopted a political formula that brought them political domination in much of western Europe for two decades.

News in Brief

  1. Polish government rows back on abortion ruling
  2. EU threatens legal action against Poland on rule of law
  3. 'Several dead' after earthquake hits Greece and Turkey
  4. Hungary faces EU court over asylum restrictions
  5. Polish PM urges end to abortion protests to 'protect elderly'
  6. EU to fund cross-border hospital transfers
  7. Some 140 migrants drown on way to Spanish islands
  8. EU central bank preparing new rescue measures

Backroom deal will make CAP reform a catastrophic failure

MEPs will vote this week on a supposedly historical reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, which accounts for over one-third of the EU's annual budget. But as it stands, it is set to become a historical failure of catastrophic proportions.

Amazon's spying on EU workers just tip of iceberg

Amazon is leading an assault on workers' rights in Europe, using big data and surveillance to crush efforts by workers to improve their conditions. It's symptomatic of a climate of impunity around breaches of privacy that benefit corporations over workers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nice attack: EU urges world leaders to stop hate speech
  2. Europe is back in (partial) lockdown
  3. Gender equality still 60 years away, warns study
  4. I'm an 'election observer' - but what do we actually do?
  5. Deal in reach on linking EU funds to rule of law
  6. EU Commission's Covid-19 expert offers bleak outlook
  7. Belgium's collaboration with Sudan's secret service: my story
  8. What do ordinary Belarusians want from the EU?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us