Janos Sugar on Wed, 30 Jul 2014 18:22:32 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> illiberal state

Viktor Orban's illiberal world

Gideon Rachman | Jul 30 07:50

Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, has just cemented his
reputation as the problem child of the European Union with a speech in
which he argued that "liberal democratic societies cannot remain
globally competitive". All EU countries are meant to subscribe to a set
of values that could broadly be described as liberal and democratic. But
Mr Orban suggested that the Hungarian government is now looking
elsewhere for inspiration - citing China, Russia, Turkey and Singapore
as potential role models.

Mr Orban's speech - which was delivered to an audience of ethnic
Hungarian leaders, meeting in neighbouring Romania - will exacerbate
fears in Brussels that democracy in Hungary is at risk. To be fair to
the Hungarian prime minister, he sought to make a distinction between
liberalism and democracy, arguing that while Hungary will continue to
respect "freedom and democracy", it should reject liberalism's stress on
individual rights - "The Hungarian nation is not a mere pile of
individuals", he asserted.

Nonetheless, some of the countries that Mr Orban cited - such as Russia,
China and Turkey - are hardly encouraging models those who cherish
democratic rights. On the contrary, they are all noted for - to varying
degrees - intimidating the press, interfering with the judiciary and
harassing NGOs. These are all things that the Hungarian government is
also regularly accused of. Mr Orban's defenders furiously deny that
press freedom or an independent judiciary are under attack in Hungary.
But the prime minister's choice of role models is certainly suggestive.

Hungary's peculiar path under Viktor Orban also has implications beyond
its borders. The EU has just agreed on serious new sanctions against
Russia. But Mr Orban clearly has some sympathy with President Putin's
political style. Hungary has also recently strengthened economic ties
with Russia. And Mr Orban has also complained about the treatment of the
Hungarian minority in Ukraine (as well as elsewhere) - which is a little off-message, at a time when the EU is trying to
 support Ukraine against Russian aggression. The Hungarian prime
minister also regularly flirts with the idea that Hungary may one day
regain some of the territories that it lost after the first world war.

At a time when the EU faces so many other problems, it has often been
easier for Brussels to ignore Viktor Orban. But the Hungarian prime
minister looks like a problem who is not going to go away.

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