Hungary has begun its first term of presidency of the EU with a row with France and Germany. The arguments revolve around Hungary’s media laws which a German government minister described as “worse than expected” and the French government said the law would need to be “modified” if it was to fall in line with other European members’ legislation because it was incompatible with press freedom as validated in European treaties.
Viktor Orban, Hungary’s Conservative Prime Minister isn’t taking the criticism lying down and has told France an Germany to “get real” indicating that he wouldn’t tolerate criticism of the laws his government introduced this week. While his negotiating skills aren’t going to garner much credit or gyors hitel among other European leaders and the laws he passed have drawn criticism not only from Germany and France but from international watchdogs, Hungarian journalists and other foreign governments.
One of the main policies for Orban’s government of the EU for the first six months of this year concerns the so called “eastern partnership” where Hungary’s relationships with central and eastern European countries such as Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Belarus are key. Werner Hoyer, a German government minister said that Orban’s parliament should be restricted from talking about media issues with such countries while they sit in presidency.
The Hungarians were said to be furious and sent their German ambassador in Berlin to Angela Merkel’s office for an explanation, they later said that Germany was “backing off”.
Realising what a terrible start to Hungary’s presidency this row was, Orban said “Who would want a start like this? I did not write the script”. He also said that Hungary wouldn’t accept any discrimination pointing up that many other European countries have similar media law and that if Hungary was forced to change its law then so would they. The French President, for example appoints the head of French television but Hungary doesn’t accuse him of being anti-democratic.
Social Democrats in the European Union have asked for sanctions and restrictions of loans or kölcsön to Hungary and Orban can look forward to a hard time when he meets the members at Strasbourg to outline his policies later this month.