Mr. David Walmsley
The Globe and Mail
444 Front Street West,
17 December 2014
Dear Mr. Walmsley,
RE: Hungary’s unjust condemnation
Mark Mackinnon’s 14 and 15 December articles on Hungary - “Hungary at centre of Cold War-style struggle between Russia and the West “ and “Statue in Budapest based on Second World War evokes dark history” – suggest to Canadian readers that Hungary is gradually turning into a dictatorship, while it “sympathizes with Russia in the conflict over Ukraine”. It also implies that democracy in Hungary is in danger and that Prime Minister Orbán “expresses admiration for the systems” of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, as well as Turkey and China.
This is simply misguided and untrue.
Hungary never took Russia’s side in the Ukrainian conflict [Ref. 1], however, it emphasized that a peaceful resolution – preferably without the economic sanctions hurting EU member states including Hungary – should be sought. If one wants to read into this any side taken by Hungary, than it’s rather the side of Ukraine, since during the height of the crisis (when Russian gas supplies were stopped to Ukraine), Hungary pumped more gas to Ukraine than any other country, dropping its own reserve levels to dangerous levels – close to the minimum limits set by the EU. Pumping more gas was technically not feasible, as confirmed by EU Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger in September 2014 [Ref. 2].
As for the “admiration” of the likes of Russia, Turkey and China: the original speech from Prime Minister Orbán in Hungarian (delivered on 26 July 2014 in Tusnádfürdő, Romania), stated that “the most popular topic in thinking today is trying to understand how systems that are not Western, not liberal, not liberal democracies and perhaps not even democracies, can nevertheless make their nations successful. The stars of the international analysts today are Singapore, China, India, Russia and Turkey.” [Ref. 3] This is quite different than what Mr. Mackinnon implies! It simply states the fact that some nations, which appear to emerge as winners in the global economic race, are not part of the family of standard Western liberal democracies. Also, how could Hungary be an “admirer of Russia” when it actually reduced Russian influence in Eastern Europe by a number of steps, for example by buying back 21% of the shares of MOL, Hungary’s oil and gas conglomerate from Russian Surgutneftegas [Ref. 4]?
Finally, for the suggestion that Hungary is turning into a dictatorship, it is best to cite the 2002 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Mr. Imre Kertész of Hungary, who as a Holocaust survivor and one who lived decades under the communist rule in Hungary, has experienced two dictatorships first-hand. In a recent interview to the New York Times (NYT), Mr. Kertész replied to a direct question from journalist David Straitfeld that although he is “not pleased with everything happening in Hungary today, …. but certainly Hungary is no dictatorship. This is empty, ideological language, to call Hungary a dictatorship today!” [Ref. 5]. To his (and our) disappointment, Mr. Kertész’ words were never published by the NYT, - in his view because perhaps this was not the answer the NYT journalist was looking for [Ref. 5].
It demonstrates the true greatness of a Nobel Prize winner that his opinion – which he based on facts – could not be distorted neither by the popular trend of unjustly portraying Hungary as the “enfant terrible of the European Union” (as Mr. Mackinnon writes) nor by his own subjective views.
As Canadians of Hungarian origin, as well as representatives of the largest Canadian Hungarian organization, we aim to promote the friendship between Canada and Hungary, two allied nations within NATO. This, however, requires fair and facts-based reporting about either country in the other’s media. We hope that The Globe and Mail will strive to ensure that the highest journalistic standards are upheld and that it will contribute to reporting about Hungary to Canadians by fair and facts-based reporting in the future.
We would appreciate if you would publish our opinion in the Letter to the Editor section.
The 16 members of the Board of Directors of the National Alliance of Hungarians in Canada (NAHC)
an umbrella organization founded by 65 Canadian-Hungarian organizations (www.kmosz.ca)