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Elections 2018: MSZP-PM Candidate Gergely Karácsony Meets Former Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern

By Abraham Vass // 2018.03.14.

Hungary’s April 8 general election will bear significance beyond the country, opposition Socialist-Párbeszéd prime ministerial candidate Gergely Karácsony and Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) head Christian Kern said at a joint press conference after talks in Vienna.

The outcome of the Hungarian election could also influence the future of Europe, Karácsony said during the press conference broadcast on SPÖ’s Facebook page. He also claimed that

Orbánism is an illness in Europe which is infecting an increasing number of member states and is already showing signs in Austria.

 As the process is damaging for the whole of Europe, there is a pressing need for good relations between the left-wing parties of Hungary and Austria, he added. Karácsony said the Orbán government’s policy for Europe involved “stealing EU money and then using some of the stolen money to incite hatred in Hungarians against the EU”.

They present the EU and Brussels as if they were enemies of Hungary,

he added. Hungarians always wanted to belong to Europe, so ruling Fidesz’s campaign involving threats that Budapest will look like Vienna if migrants are allowed to settle will actually work in favour of the Socialists-Párbeszéd election alliance, he said.

In response to a question concerning possible cooperation with radical nationalist Jobbik, Karácsony said “the enemy of my enemy does not automatically become my friend” and argued that this applies to the relations between Hungary’s left and Jobbik. In another interview however, Karácsony claimed that cooperation depends on Jobbik, and that the alliance he leads has no conditions for starting talks about cooperation for the elections. He compared the election campaign to the battle of David and Goliath, in which the Goliath-Fidesz has all the resources; however, the David-MSZP-Párbeszéd “has justice on its side and will eventually win the battle”.

Kern, former chancellor of Austria, said he was in agreement with Karácsony that democracy, European solidarity and constitutionality are indisputable virtues. He said Hungary is one of Austria’s most important partners, and added that it causes some concern that Hungary has become “massively anti-European” during Orbán’s tenure as prime minister. Referring to Karácsony and Socialist Party leader Gyula Molnár, he expressed trust that there would be an alternative model standing against Orbán’s illiberal democracy.

Gergely Karácsony, prime ministerial candidate of MSZP-PM with Gyula Molnár head of the Socialist and Christian Kern leader of FPÖ. Photo: Posta Ákos István

In response to a question concerning possible links between crime statistics and the migrant policy of Austria’s former government and border protection measures, Kern said crime statistics improved significantly in Austria in recent years. There are integration problems connected to migrants and criminal acts, but problems must be addressed by organising integration, he added.

Karácsony’s approach to Kern and his party came as no surprise, given that the Orbán government’s relations with the former Austrian government headed by Christian Kern were rather cold, and the social democrats were critical and distanced themselves from PM Orbán’s “illiberalist, rightist” policies. After the October elections in Austria however, when the center-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) won, and Sebastian Kurz became Chancellor in coalition with far-right Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ), many expected that relations would improve. Nevertheless, there are still points of contention between the two countries, such as the Austrian government’s plans to cut benefits for children living abroad, which would affect almost forty thousands Hungarian children, or Austria’s lawsuit against the EU’s decision over Hungary’s Paks nuclear plant expansion.

As elections approach, on each Monday Hungary Today publishes  a summary of what happened in domestic politics the week before. You can find last week’s roundup here.




image via (mti)