Friday

20th Oct 2017

Hungary heading for fresh EU controversy with 'history carpet'

  • A map of Hungary in 1848 is at the centre of the 'historical carpet' (Photo: Valentina Pop)

The Hungarian EU presidency is steering into a fresh controversy with the installation of a 'history carpet' featuring a map of the Habsburg empire in the Justus Lipsius building where ministers and leaders from all 27 member states meet during summits.

Intended to be a "historical timeline" of Hungarian symbols and images, the 202 square-metre long carpet rolled out on the floor of the Council of the European Union building is likely to spark fresh controversies about the nationalistic outlook of the government in Budapest, after the government adopted a new citizenship law for Hungarian minorities abroad.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Speaking to EUobserver, Marton Hajdu, spokesman of the newly inaugurated Hungarian EU presidency forcefully denied any connection with present policies and said it would be "unfair" to assume that.

"The carpet is basically a timeline of cultural, historical and scientific symbols or images of Hungary: kings, ancient artefacts, excerpts from the encyclopaedia, the map of the region in 1848 - the year of the 'Spring of nations', when revolutions took place all across Europe," he explained.

But to MEPs from countries in the region, the very choice of the map - depicting Slovakia and parts of Romania and Serbia as part of the Habsburg empire - is indicative of the nostalgic sentiments and even irredentist impulses of the current government.

While agreeing with the Hungarian spokesman that the map relates to 1848, when Hungary rose against the Habsburg empire, along with other nations, Austrian Green MEP Ulrike Lunacek also pointed out that at the end of that process, 19 years later, the Austro-Hungarian co-regency was formed, putting Budapest on an equal footing with Vienna and granting it the same imperial authority over other nations.

The map is an illustration of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's "intention to overcome the Treaty of Trianon" at the end of the first World War, when Hungary was forced to give up Slovakia and parts of Romania and Serbia, she said. To this aim, Ms Lunacek believes, the centre-right government in Budapest recently enacted the new law granting citizenship to thousands of ethnic Hungarians living in these neighbouring countries.

"It is a very backwards view of Mr Orban, not at all in the direction of a common European future. It is also a complete misinterpretation of EU's current challenges," Ms Lunacek said.

This would not be the first time an EU presidency installation sparked controversy: in January 2009, the "Entropa" artwork put up by the Czech presidency saw Bulgaria request that the depiction of its country - as a Turkish toilet - be covered by a cloth. Ms Lunacek argued that "at least the Czechs were funny. But the Orban government is not. It is very nationalistic and showing their historical importance."

Romanian Socialist MEP Ioan Mircea Pascu also noted that the Czechs had to alter the exhibit after other states complained about how they were labelled and said that overall "the importance given to 'Greater Hungary' is not the most inspired symbol for the Hungarian EU presidency."

"The EU stands for abolishing internal borders, not for regrets over their previous existence. Such gestures are likely to fuel nationalistic reactions within the EU, at a time when the union is most in need of solidarity," he told this website.

The new citizenship law, which came into force on 1 January, has sparked tensions between Budapest and Bratislava, with the latter passing a tit-for-tat bill stripping anyone of their Slovak citizenship if they applied for the Hungarian one.

Slovak opposition leader Robert Fico even dubbed the law a "security threat" and accused Hungary of attempting to revise history.

Slovakia is home to some 500,000 Hungarians, roughly a tenth of its population. In Romania, where some six percent of the 20-million strong population is Hungarian, the citizenship law was met with less anger, as Bucharest is pursuing its own citizenship policy with Romanians living in neighbouring Moldova.

However, Hungarian talk about expanding the law to grant voting rights to the minorities abroad have spooked even Joseph Daul, head of the centre-right European People's Party in the EU legislature, which also includes members of Mr Orban's party.

"Giving voting rights to the Hungarians abroad would be unacceptable, tantamount to not recognising the borders. The Slovaks and the Romanians will never accept that, and neither will the EPP," he said on Wednesday during a meeting with Brussels-based journalists.

"I remind that when you join the EU, the borders are fixed," he stressed, noting that among 27 member states, one country cannot do "whatever it wants."

Tusk summits to create new-model EU

Tusk has proposed a series of 13 top-level talks to take forward European reform, but his backing for a multi-speed Europe risks deepening divide.

Catalonia to declare independence in a few days

Spain's king, Felipe VI, said Catalonia's leaders were breaking up the country's unity as hundreds of thousands of Catalans rallied against police violence at Sunday's referendum.

EU Commission's credibility eroding, says Catalonia

A former commission official who now represents the Catalan government says some European commissioners do not agree with the EU commission's official statement on Catalonia's bid for independence from Spain.

Focus

Health MEPs want to phase out glyphosate by 2020

A committee resolution said the proposal to renew the glyphosate permit for a decade "fails to ensure a high level of protection of both human and animal health and the environment".

News in Brief

  1. Dutch PM: Brexit is 'still a bad idea'
  2. Commission to issue proposal on civil protection
  3. Tusk: 'No space' for EU intervention in Catalonia
  4. Austrian PM calls Brexit talks speed 'big disappointment'
  5. PM Muscat: journalist murder 'left a mark' on Malta
  6. Belgian PM: No crisis with Spain over Catalan remarks
  7. Ireland PM: Further Brexit concessions needed from UK
  8. Merkel: rule of law in Turkey going 'in wrong direction'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEJC Applauds the Bulgarian Government for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  2. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  3. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  6. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  7. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  8. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  9. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  10. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  11. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness

Latest News

  1. EU seeks to shut down sea route from Libya
  2. Digital debate will be first test of Tusk's new policy crowbar
  3. EU Parliament: EU migrant quotas do have a future
  4. EU countries praise Tusk's new summit plans
  5. Commission employs double standards in Spain
  6. Legal study sounds alarm on 'Baysanto' merger
  7. Health MEPs want to phase out glyphosate by 2020
  8. Tusk: EU migrant quotas have 'no future'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  2. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  3. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  4. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  5. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  7. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  9. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Support Start-Ups
  11. ILGA EuropeInternational Attention Must Focus on LGBTI People in Azerbaijan After Police Raids
  12. European Jewish CongressStrong Results of Far Right AfD Party a Great Concern for Germans and European Jews