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Párbeszéd MP Szabó’s Controversial Words Lead to Diplomatic Skirmish between Hungary and Romania

Ábrahám Vass 2020.04.28.

At one point in her Parliamentary speech, green-liberal Párbeszéd’s MP Tímea Szabó listed Hungarian-inhabited places across the border, and asked the government why it’s sending masks abroad (when there isn’t enough protective gear here in Hungary, according to the opposition). Her words were soon criticized by many from all sides, generating waves, one of them additionally leading to a diplomatic skirmish with Romania.

Before the governing alliance interrupted her, Szabó said that “doctors meeting the Prime Minister on his victory laps around hospitals lack masks half of the time, or the masks they do have are not up to standard. [While] we hear that 21,000 masks have been sent to Kolozs (Cluj) County and 60,000 in Maros (Mureş) County, as well as in Beregszász (Berehove), Csíkszereda (Miercurea Ciuc), Kovászna (Covasna) County, Zilah (Zalău), Croatia, and [North] Macedonia…”

The applaud from the rows of the ruling alliance, however, interrupted Szabó’s speech, who then also ran out of time and House Speaker László Kövér (Fidesz) silenced her microphone. Her words drew much controversy and criticism from all angles of the domestic and ethnic Hungarian political palette, and even many left-wing or liberal-leaning personalities grew critical of her.

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Szabó explains her words

Szabó, besides noting that three of her four grandparents are in fact Transylvanian, explained that “the truth, on the other hand, is that before I could finish the sentence, Fidesz MPs – with the assistance of László Kövér – silenced me. The other half of my sentence originally would have been that there is nothing wrong with the government helping others- it is wrong, on the other hand, that allegedly 20 million masks are parked in warehouses for weeks and are not being distributed, while hospitals, GPs, and citizens don’t have access to proper protective equipment.

Additionally, she also announced her intention to file lawsuits against pro-government site Origo and all those who “falsely claimed” that she didn’t support Hungarians across the borders receiving masks and protective equipment. She added that this wasn’t the first time when “Viktor Orbán’s mamluks [a thoroughly government-supporting and serving politician] lie in order to divert attention from their continuous stealing and failure to help people through their regular production of creating enemies.”

Dehumanizing articles in pro-govt media

Besides countless disapproving articles, pro-Fidesz daily Magyar Nemzet leveled criticism further up, and in a likely-to-be pseudonymed article, among other things, wrote that “the organism called Tímea Szabó (…) was created in an illegal laboratory (…) was kept in a heat-resistant, sterile glass jar for a while, then MSZP [Socialist Party] dragged it [while she made it to the Parliament by winning her constituency and not from the party’s list] into the Hungarian Parliament ,” where “it splashed around its bacteria.” In addition, while she “is a member of a non-existent party, she is the biological weapon of a very much existing background power” who “is not in the Hungarian Parliament to represent her electorate, but just to poison it.”

In the wake of publishing the article, a joint statement of the female opposition MPs expressed solidarity with Szabó and “protested against the writing that evokes the Nazi times.” While Momentum MEP Anna Donáth criticized that Kövér, tough on the opposition in case of misbehaving, failed to let Szabó finish her way of thinking and that the House Speaker didn’t silence and sanction Fidesz-KDNP politicians, which, in her view, is the application of double standards.

And the aforementioned article is not the only one with controversial wording. Another by (another pro-Fidesz daily) Magyar Hírlap, titled “Worm-speed,” without naming anyone, called leftwing-liberals “worms” who, when trouble hits in and cooperation would be needed “do just the opposite. They destroy in an emergency, stir up contention and ruin. They are destroying the world, Europe and Hungary,” Pál Dippold, a writer and journalist decorated with an Attila József award, wrote.

Diplomatic skirmish

In the latest, and perhaps the loudest turn, on Saturday, the Foreign Minister published the Whatsapp conversation of the foreign ambassadors to Budapest (you can read it here), in which the Romanian ambassador to Budapest, Marius Lazurca, expressed solidarity with Szabó after “the endless stream of insults and of threats,” and wrote that she hopes she is “well and untouched, morally or otherwise.”

Péter Szijjártó, however, outraged about this, commented: “so according to Tímea Szabó, it’s a problem that Transylvanian and Szeklerland Hungarians received masks and protective clothes from the motherland. And the Romanian ambassador likes that there are parties in the Hungarian Parliament that think so. The Romanian ambassador untruthfully whipping up hysteria is shocking, but it is much more shameful that the Hungarian opposition and the Romanian ambassador have come to a common platform against Hungarians beyond the borders,” he wrote, adding that he finds it “unlikely that it can get any lower than the ambassador of Romania defending Tímea Szabó.”

Secretary of State Tamás Menczer also joined his superior and said that the Hungarian opposition, with special regard to Tímea Szabó, have been “involved in anti-Hungarian activities in cooperation with the Romanian ambassador.” According to him, only one percent of Hungary’s supplies of face masks have been donated to Hungarian communities in other countries, adding that she “has resented that one percent.” Earlier, he also claimed that “during an epidemic, we should stick together, but this can’t be done with anti-Hungarian people.”

Szabó: Artificially created case

Szabó, in her reaction, claimed that “unfortunately, the ambassador was right. Since the publication of Magyar Nemzet’s article and the incitement of the government, I have received many threats to my life. I am well aware that Viktor Orbán and his government benefit from this [artificially] created “case” that is not about reality, not about the tragic conditions in healthcare, and not about the deaths and the renunciation of hundreds of thousands of families, but about the lies they create.”

featured image via Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI