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Central Europe ‘Blessing for the EU’ – PM Orbán Responds to Fierce Criticism from British Historian, Timothy Garton Ash

Péter Cseresnyés 2021.09.14.

Viktor Orbán is leading the “other Europe” and poses a real threat to the European Union, British historian, Timothy Garton Ash, said in an interview last week. In his response to the harsh words, Orbán later responded in a “samizdat,” claiming that Hungary and Central Europe are not a threat but a “blessing” for the EU and even Western Europe.

Last week, Timothy Garton Ash, British historian, writer and professor of European studies at Oxford University, gave an interview to Euronews in which he called Viktor Orbán’s illiberalism a real threat to the European Union.  The EU debates should stand up for European values, which are being seriously violated by Hungary and Poland, Ash argued.

He also outlined that the Europe of values should be linked to the Europe of money, because Viktor Orbán is winning elections with the slogan “Stop Brussels,” campaigning against the EU while taking billions of European taxpayers’ money.

According to the professor, Orbán has become the symbolic leader of the “other Europe:” a conservative, anti-liberal, ethnic nationalist, Christian, socially conservative Europe.

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The professor called it a “dishonest cleverness” that Viktor Orbán is talking about greater sovereignty while staying in the EU because of all the benefits. Ash believes in a sense, the “stupidity” of the British and their leaving the EU were way more honest.

The professor further criticized Viktor Orbán and his government, emphasizing that in his view, Hungary is no longer a democracy.

“It is absolutely outrageous that you have a member state of the European Union, which in my view is no longer a democracy, which has destroyed media freedom, which doesn’t have fair elections, free but not fair elections, which has kicked out the best university in Central Europe, which has indulged in outrageously xenophobic propaganda, the treatment of migrants and so on, which is still receiving billions of euros in EU funds. That’s an outrageous state of affairs.”

Following the harsh words the Hungarian Prime Minister published his 12th Samizdat which is ultimately a response to the criticism voiced by the Oxford University professor.

In the publication, PM Orbán said that the professor has an excellent knowledge of Central Europe. “He used to inspire many of us during our years of resistance against communism and the Soviet occupation, in the last years of the 1980s.”

The Prime Minister then referred to Garton Ash’s thoughts about the “different kind of Europe.”

“In my view, there is a Central European cultural, intellectual, and political entity that is growing more and more different from Western Europe; but this is not hazardous, it is not a threat. It is, in fact, a blessing for the European Union and even Western Europe. It was Timothy Garton Ash’s heavy criticism that inspired one of my recent lectures, which attempts to spell out — in categories comprehensible for Western audiences — the intellectual essence of today’s European debates as we see them,” Orbán said.

The Prime Minister then published the transcript of his lecture at the Mathias Corvinus Collegium from last week, in which he said that Eastern competitors are increasingly racing past the Western countries because they have greater intellectual drive, are better organized, and more effective in organizing themselves.

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“As far as I can see, today this process determines the life of the West. They’re rich and weak. The most dangerous combination. Those now emerging see nothing respectable in us, we’re nothing but easy prey for them,” Viktor Orbán said, adding that he believes the West has lost sight of its own mission, while the Hungarians are preserving it, which is why there are disputes between the European Union and Hungary.

Featured photo by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI