The Hungarian government began its rotating presidency of the European Union with a large official party in Millenarian Park. Several thousand attended. The interviews journalists conducted on the spot indicate that those present were almost exclusively active supporters of the current government.
Although politicians were not present, the government spokeswoman, Anna Nagy, and Piroska Bakos, the designated spokesperson of Hungary's EU presidency, attended. Anna Nagy announced that Hungary's EU presidency will be marked by an incredible number of cultural events. The coming six months will be "the most cultured half a year in the history of the European Union." In addition, she stated her belief that "we will be able to show Europe and the world how fantastic [klasszak], how creative we are."
All sorts of Hungarian groups performed. In order for all of us to enjoy the party and its offerings, I selected a few videos available on YouTube. The following groups took part: the Dresch Quartet and Kishúg (Little Sister), the Presidance Company, the Budapest Bár, the Sárik Trió, the Cassiopeia Buzogány Csoport, and finally a woman whose name, believe it or not, is Szirtes Edina-Mókus. The Szirtes and Edina are okay, but I don't quite know what to do with the Squirrel!
In the middle of all these activities came Pál Schmitt's New Year's speech as he wandered around the Presidential Palace (Sándor-Palota).
MTI journalists reported the following opinions from the party goers. Marcell (28) believes that Hungary's image will change as a result of the presidency: "We will show that we are capable of conducting politics and solving problems on a European level." Doyle (67), who is an actor, thinks that at last the West will know more about Hungary because "until now they have known nothing." According to him the presidency is a huge responsibility and, although one can always fail, "with such an excellent prime minister one cannot talk about failure. He is the greatest statesman in Europe."
Gyula (66) thinks that Hungary will be better known as a result of the presidency and will be able to assert its own political and economic interests. The presidency is important for Hungary because through it Hungary can regain its importance on the international stage and the trustworthiness that it lost because of the lies of the former government. Another Gyula (40) told the reporter that Hungary "will show the world that it can lead Europe." He and his friends hitherto didn't feel that they were citizens of the European Union, and in any case the European Union's reputation is low. People "don't look up to me because I'm a citizen of the European Union the same way people look up to a citizen of the United States." The reporter inquired from our man whether Viktor Orbán will be a good president. The answer was "as far as I know Viktor Orbán he will be excellent. After all, in the last six months he has changed a lot at home… He is a well known politician abroad, and in spite of the media law he is welcome everywhere."
Gabriella (65) is expecting the prime minister–whom she considers to be a trustworthy man of grit [karakán]–"to fix up the Union." After all, he fixed up Hungary already. (Actually she used the slang term: gatyába rázni.) Éva (50) is convinced that the goal of the presidency will be to make Hungary better known in Europe. "We are different within Europe and it is this difference that makes Hungary valuable. This is what we have to show." Zoltán (51) agrees: "In the world there are an awful lot of wrong assumptions about Hungary." The presidency will "give us the opportunity to show that we are capable of more than the world, the European Union, or even we ourselves think." Zoltán is sure that Hungary will be successful, that Europe's opinion of Hungary will change for the better, and that the next six months will raise the self-esteem of the Hungarians.
The recurring themes are: (1) the world doesn't know Hungary and the Hungarians; (2) the world doesn't think that Hungarians are capable of behaving in a "European way" but they are wrong; (3) Viktor Orbán is a capable man who managed to straighten out Hungary and surely he will be equally successful on the European scene; (4) the presidency is an opportunity to demonstrate the greatness of the Hungarians.
So, on the one hand, there is the belief that Hungary and the Hungarians are great but for one reason or another the world doesn't appreciate them. There is also this nagging thought that Hungarians are different but that they are Europeans who can handle things just as well as the western European nations. They all seem to be supporters of Fidesz who are certain that with Viktor Orbán at the helm the European Union will also be reborn. We who are reading all the bad foreign press about Hungary and Orbán might be astonished by the fact that most of these people don't realize that Hungary's reputation at the moment is at rock bottom.
Another impression was that these people have very little notion of what the rotating presidency actually means. They consider it a much more important role than it actually is. For example, in their eyes Viktor Orbán will actually lead Europe "in a positive direction." I found these answers fascinating.