Zoltán Kovács, state secretary for international communications, has slammed an op-ed recently published online by EUObserver, entitled “Anti-Roma hatred on streets of Budapest”, as “opportunistic, woefully biased and all too familiar”.
Referring to a recent far-right protest in Budapest, authors Jacqueline Bhabha and Margareta Matache described Hungary as a place where “hate-filled violence of neo-fascist activists builds on the complicity of Hungarian political leaders” like Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, “who draws on an arsenal of racist hate speech”.
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Kovács said in a letter published by EUObserver on Friday: “Now that it appears we have overcome the worst stage of the coronavirus pandemic in Hungary and the chorus of liberal critics have had to pause their campaign against PM Orbán’s supposed dictatorial power grab and move on to something else to denounce … The reprehensible protest by a group of far-right radicals offers a perfect occasion.”
The article, Kovács said, was clearly aimed at convincing readers that the Hungarian government was responsible “for the radical right and their anti-Roma rhetoric”.
Kovács dismissed the authors’ claim that “no national or EU leader has publicly condemned the aggressive and open dissemination of violent hate speech in Hungary’s capital.” Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, condemned the demonstration, he noted, quoting him as saying: “There is no such thing as gypsy crime, because crime doesn’t have an ethnicity.”
Kovács criticised the authors for “ignoring significant details” concerning the government’s Roma policy, including a compensation package to assist families of victims in a series of slayings in 2008 and 2009, as well as a ban on paramilitary organisations terrorising the Roma. He added that the government included a detailed ban on hate speech in the new Hungarian constitution and raised penalties for such crimes.
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Furthermore, the government made kindergarten compulsory to help reduce the number of school drop-outs and has provided free meals and textbooks for needy children, Kovács said, adding that “classes on Roma history and culture have been made part of the national curriculum”.
In his letter, Kovács also noted that “vice-president of the European Parliament, Lívia Járóka, is the first Roma woman ever elected to that body, and she was elected on the [ruling Hungarian] Fidesz-KDNP ticket”.
Featured photo by Balázs Mohai/MTI