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Monday, March 14, 2016

THE VIEW FROM BUDAPEST

THE VIEW FROM BUDAPEST: HUNGARIAN-MACEDONIAN RELATIONS

- by Sasha Uzunov

In December 2012, Hungary led by the larger than life, some would say bombastic, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, recognised Macedonia under its constitutional name much to the chagrin of Greece which has blocked Macedonia’s EU and NATO membership applications for over twenty years. Greece is staunchly and stubbornly opposed to the use of the name of Macedonia.

Hungary is both a European Union and NATO member.

The reaction from certain quarters in Macedonia, ironically from people claiming to be pro-West was, to put it, a strange combination of anti-Hungarian sentiment and geo-strategic naivety, and above all else inconsistent. see link. The same level of blow-torch intense scrutiny was not applied to the Macedonian government agreeing to share embassies with Serbia, which has no intention of joing NATO.

Interview with Mr László Szentesi Zöldi 
Born in 1970. Hungarian journalist, columnist, writer. He has worked as a reporter and editor for Hungarian Television (MTV), Duna Televison, Echo Television, a journalist for the Foreign Desk at daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet, Deputy-Editor-In-Chief at daily newspaper Magyar Hírlap. He is currently a columnist for weekly Magyar Demokrata in Budapest. László Szentesi Zöldi has reported from many countries, including Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq, Turkey, Taiwan, China.

Question 1: As a Hungarian journalist what are your views on the ever deepening Hungarian-Macedonian diplomatic relations? Macedonia doesn’t have too many friends in the Balkans, with the exception of Hungary and Croatia, which because of being tied up in internal politicking has allowed Serbia to take a more assertive role in the southern Balkans and in Macedonia but Zagreb has now began to readress that.

László Szentesi Zöldi: Our diplomatic relations are very good. Some weeks ago Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Mr Nikola Popovski visited Budapest, the Hungarian capital. I wouldn't say his talks with his Hungarian colleague were cool or unfriendly. When Hungary's Foreign Minister, Mr Péter Szijjártó declared that "Macedonia should have been invited to join NATO long ago, and the EU should have started accession talks at least six years ago”, that tells you of the deepening Hungarian-Macedonian relations and mutal affection - these are more important than the usual stock words and phrases, and cliches of diplomatic communiques. Macedonia is a very important partner for the countries in the Visegrád Group - cooperation (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia - see link) as a small but stable country that would help keep the balance between different powers in the Balkans. Beyond that, Hungarians simply like Macedonians. Although Macedonia is far from the Serbian-Hungarian or Croatian-Hungarian border, we have travelled a lot in the former Yugoslavia, many Hungarians have nice memories of Skopje, Stara Carsija [old Turkish bazar] or rakija [brandy]. This has nothing to do with politics, but I often cook tavce gravce [Macedonian traditional dish of baked means and meat] for my friends!

Hungarian PM Viktor Orban (left) receives an Order Of Macedonia award from Macedonia’s President George Ivanov.

Question 2: There has been a ferocious attack or campaign against Hungary and in particular the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán by Macedonian pundit, self proclaimed human rights activist and a former presidential advisor Borjan Jovanovski. We all know that it’s a journalist’s job to criticise all politicians, including Orban, but you find it strange that the same level of scrutiny is not applied to say Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and Serbian Prime Minister Alexander Vucic, who are Serbian nationalists at heart. Serbia is not an EU or NATO member. It has an atrocious human rights record and has made some very loud nationalistic murmurs recently, such as the rehabilitation of ultra nationalist leaders, Draza Mihailovic, or the provocative statements against Macedonia (Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic’s complaints about Macedonia’s support for Kosovo’s UNESCO application). see link & another link 

László Szentesi Zöldi: It's always a suprise when human rights activist attacks an independent and democratic state such as Hungary, but obviously, these critics know nothing about its internal or domestic politics. I think after the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, especially the siege of Sarajevo and Srebrenica massacres, it's difficult to believe in "universal values" in our region. Human rights talks are largely about empty promises, we have to be more practical. It’s probably better to respect the right of all governments to govern by their own rules, without violence or despotism, of course. However, let me point out that Mr Orbán never urged that we should kill 100 Serbs if they kill just one Hungarian, the way in which Serbian PM Vucic did in 1995 when he warned that 100 Muslim Bosnians would be killed for every one Serb (see link).  By the way, we, Serbs, Macedonians, Croats, Slovenians, Hungarians should unite somehow against illegal migration. This is a real danger, and we can see the difference between the dreamy utopia and hard reality; so called "universal values' and protection of borders - Western illusions and Eastern realism. It can hardly be a coincidence that without hesitation or after a short pause, the EU’s members all want to built fences. As for the situation in Macedonia, if you let in the endless unregulated or unscreened crowds of migrants in the near future, your problems will only get worse.


Twitter: Mr Borjan Jovanovski, a former Macedonian Presidential advisor, in a note deliberately written in Macedonian with some Serbian words thrown in, cheekily says: “concerns about certain things in Serbia being banned, hey stop exaggerating.” However, in an English note, he calls for protests against Hungary. In the meantime, Mr Jovanovski has not called for any protests against Serbia or rising Serbian nationalism.

But when asked if he would condemn the Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic,  Mr Jovanovski said nothing. Mr Jovanovski is also a self-appointed human rights activist who paradoxically years for the former Yugoslavia, a one party state. see link



Question 3: In your opinion why is there this campaign against Hungary in Macedonia but Serbia gets treated softly?

László Szentesi Zöldi:: Because of emotional and historical reasons Serbia might be closer to some members of Macedonia's political class. It's a fact. As far as I can see Macedonian identity is a very complex question for the Macedonians themselves, but at the same time an irritating thing for Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia. If someone really thinks that Serbia is a land of paradise whilst Hungary has a terrible, anti-democratic governement, I have to strongly disagree with this extreme and unjust assertion.  Old-fashioned Serbian nationalism which still exists in Belgrade blocks hope to do real changes for a better future. But the campaign against Hungary is over. We just built a fence, and our neighbours simply followed the example. This time, after being criticised, Mr Orbán is a very popular politician all over in Europe, which is a suprising phenomenon, but at the same time this campaign against was waged by those who support socialist-led ideology.

Photo caption: Mr Csaba Sogor (left) pictured with Nobel Peace Prize winner The Dalai Lama.

Question 4: Ethnic Hungarian MEP from Romania Csaba Sogor has bravely stood up against the bullies from Golden Dawn, an extreme nationalist, neo-Nazi Greek political party at a European Parliamentary conference on ethnic minorities who live in Greece, namely Turks, Macedonians and others.  see link  - What can you tell us about Mr Sogor?

László Szentesi Zöldi: Mr Sogor is a protestant clergyman, a former senator for the Democratic Union of Hungarians in the Romanian Parliament; he is a popular and respected politician in Transylvania. As a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) he represents 1.5 million ethnic Hungarians in Romania, one of the largest national ethnic minority groups in Europe. Mr Sógor is a very friendly and open person, that's why he was willing to stand up and react to the nasty threats and shouts from the "Crazy Greek Golden Dawn.” It was not just about politics but two different ways of thinking, two different philosophies. I enjoyed watching the verbal confrontation, especially when Mr Sógor shouted back at the Golden Dawn extremists that it's no use to “shield" the whole Greek nation-state from the conference. Mr Sogor also mentioned that some Slovakian and Romanian politicians were also pandering to unjustified nationalistic fears about ethnic Hungarians in those two respective countries, so he knew exactly how to react to the shouts and threats from the Golden Dawn MEPs in the room: He said to them "get out and shut up!" This kind of situation is not a very comfortable one to deal with but it truthfully must be confronted, especially in reacting to Golden Dawn.
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TEAM UZUNOV- Mr Sogor has also raised issues relating to the very large Hungarian minority in Serbia  - at this link
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