Hungary has been shocked by the news of Monday’s Berlin tragedy as much as any other country in Europe. While leading politicians expressed condolences to their German counterparts, the Foreign Ministry offered support to Hungarian nationals in Berlin and Police increased their presence on the streets of Budapest. At the same time political parties and newspapers ponder the consequences of the latest terrorist attack in Europe.
President Áder: “We must overcome the forces of destruction”
Hungarian President János Áder has sent a telegram of condolence to German President Joachim Gauck over Monday’s terrorist attack on a Christmas fair in Berlin. In his telegram, Áder voiced his “deep regret” over the “underhand and ruthless attack”. “In these difficult hours of hardship you have our sincere sympathy and we share your grief,” Áder said. “We condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” the president said in his telegram. “We must overcome the forces of destruction and, guided by our shared values, do everything to prevent those obsessed by violence from jeopardising the lives of peaceful people. In this fight, Germany can rely on support from its friends including Hungary,” Áder said. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó also expressed shock and sympathy to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier respectively.
Government spokesman: one Hungarian injured in Berlin attack
The Hungarian government spokesman said Monday’s attack in Berlin was committed against the whole of Europe, so Hungary has also been attacked. According to reports yet unconfirmed by the German authorities, a Hungarian citizen also suffered minor injuries but has already left the hospital, Zoltán Kovács said. He expressed sympathy on behalf of the government to the victims’ relatives and friends, the German people and the country’s leaders. He said police security has been stepped up in Hungary at Christmas fairs and all high-attendance events, as well as at the German and Russian embassies.
No imminent threat in Hungary, says security chief
The Hungarian authorities have no intelligence that would suggest a terrorist attack on Hungary in the making, the prime minister’s chief security advisor said. Commenting on Monday’s attack in Berlin, György Bakondi told public television’s news channel M1 that police and the security services were doing everything possible to obtain as much verifiable information as possible “so that if anything were being prepared, then it could be prevented to ensure that the Hungarian people have a safe and peaceful Christmas.” The ministry of interior said in a statement that Hungary’s counter-terrorism coordination council had not raised the threat level and it would maintain the current medium level. At the same time, the police presence on the streets and shopping precincts and malls will be enhanced, particularly in light of the period of Christmas festivities, it added.
Hungary’s political parties urged a concentrated effort to fight terrorism in light of Monday’s Berlin attack on a Christmas fair and the slaying of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey in Ankara. Ruling Fidesz said in a statement that states of the European Union must “do everything in their power to ensure the security of their citizens”. “The attacks have rocked not only Germany and Russia, but the whole of Europe, and highlight the necessity for firm action against extremism and terrorism,” the statement said. According to radical nationalist Jobbik, “firm prevention” is a must to fight terrorism. The attacks make it clear that the authorities of Hungary and other countries must prevent terrorists from entering Europe and prevent “rich terrorists from aiding the creation and operation of terrorist organisations”.
The opposition Socialists said terrorism should be combatted by strengthening law enforcement, the intelligence and secret services rather than “through high-sounding slogans and exclusion”. The leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) vowed to fight for the continuation of democratic order in Europe. “We will not be afraid. We will not see an enemy or terrorist in everybody. We will not hate but act as free and strong citizens and protect the way of life and democracy in Europe,” DK head Ferenc Gyurcsány said. Green LMP said the “unforgivable” attacks had been aimed against Europe’s freedom, but “we must not let the enemies of freedom win, we must not deviate from the European path of shared freedom and security,” the party said. The opposition Együtt party condemned the attack and expressed sympathy to the victims’ friends and relatives. It added in a statement that the attack was suffered not only by Berlin but by the whole of Europe.
In their very first reactions to the Berlin massacre, the Hungarian media refrain from recalling how their government cautioned Germany against indiscriminately hosting a million asylum seekers. They quote experts who warn that Christmas fairs are impossible to protect against lone wolf terrorist attacks. Pro-government newspaper Magyar Idők’s main headline runs “The perpetrator was most probably a Pakistani citizen.” Left-wing daily Népszava‘s front page headline is simply “Tragedy in Berlin”. “Berlin hit by terror attack” offers right-wing Magyar Hirlap. Hirado.hu, the public media news site, quotes German-Hungarian terror expert Georg Spöttle, who says that “urban Christmas fairs are virtually impossible to protect against individual terrorists who follow internet instructions from ISIS to act on their own, whether by using home-made explosive devices or seizing vehicles and driving them into crowds.”
via hungarymatters.hu, MTI and budapost.eu; cover photo: János Marjai – MTI