Tag Archives: Florești/Szászfenes

Viktor Orbán’s election campaign in Romania

Just the other day I saw a short article full of advice about how to achieve a happy and healthy old age. It listed all those well-known factors that have an important bearing on our well-being: proper nutrition, exercise, relaxation, intellectual activities, and the proper amount of sleep. I have bad news for Viktor Orbán, who, as an article pointed out, has aged fifteen years in five, comparing his photos then and now. Since he gave up taking care of everyday governance, finding administrative duties at home too boring, and started spending his time trying to act like an important world leader, he has had a punishing schedule.

Let’s take the following example of his hectic gallivanting about. He left Budapest on the evening of September 24 for Hanoi, Vietnam, where he arrived on the 25th. Around noon on September 26 he arrived in Singapore, where he spent not quite two days. The large Hungarian delegation arrived in Budapest from Singapore on the evening of September 27. The next morning, on September 28, he was already in Ohrid, Macedonia, where he and Prime Minister Janes Jansa of Slovenia “gave a hearty boost to Macedonia’s ousted leader Nikola Gruevski in the run-up to Macedonia’s local elections.” You know–the one who was allegedly ousted by George Soros himself. A few hours later he was in Tallinn, Estonia, for an EU conference, where again he spent only a few hours because by eight o’clock that evening he was in Cluj/Kolozsvár in Romania. After spending September 30 and part of October 1 in Kolozsvár and in Florești/Szászfenes, he travelled to Oradea/Nagyvárad, where he spent another day and a half before returning to Budapest sometime in the afternoon of October 3. A busy ten days for sure.

The few hours spent in Tallinn were good enough only for a brief talk with the Dutch foreign minister, whom Orbán forgave for the harsh words of the Dutch ambassador to Budapest. He agreed to the return to Amsterdam of the Hungarian ambassador, who had been hastily recalled about a month ago.

He had more important things to do at the next stop, Romania. The ostensible reason for this extended trip was celebration of the birth of Protestantism 500 years ago, in 1517. Normally, Orbán is not in the habit of spending almost five days in any one country, and although I understand that his newly found fervent faith makes him more interested in religious matters, it is still hard to believe that the real goal of his trip was to talk about Protestantism as part of the religious history of Hungary. After reading the description of his speeches and interview, I can say that Viktor Orbán was clearly campaigning in Romania. He indicated that continued financial support depends on whether the Hungarians of Romania support him and his government. If the liberals and socialists win the 2018 election, the generous aid packages will come to an end. Or, at least this is what he wanted his audience to believe. The extremely generous maintenance of Hungarian religious, cultural, and educational facilities in Romania began during the first Orbán government, in 2000/2001. But two years later, when Orbán lost the election, the new socialist-liberal government uninterruptedly gave the same amount of money to Hungarian organizations in Romania as before.

Orbán delivered three speeches. The first was in Cluj/Kolozsvár in the Protestant Theological Institute, the second in Florești/Szászfenes at the consecration of a new Hungarian Reformed Church, and, finally, one in Oradea/Nagyvárad at the convocation of the Partium Christian University. His first speech was almost like a Hungarian Reformed sermon. It was only at the very end that he began talking about his government’s vision for the Hungarian community, which might be divided by borders but is nonetheless a unitary living organ that cannot live a full, happy life if any of its parts is in need or ill. Therefore, he would like to see a future in which “the soaring Hungary is joined with an emerging Romania.” He would like to see “a future in which the Visegrád 4 countries, the engines of the European economy, and Romania unite.” Well, considering how fast the Romanian economy is growing, I wouldn’t be talking so glowingly about the “soaring” Hungary and so disparagingly about the “emerging” Romania. In general, he claimed that “the age of national pride” is ascending in which “the future will be written in Hungarian.”

A day later he delivered a speech in Florești/Szászfenes, which is only a few miles from Cluj/Kolozsvár. Historically speaking, it was a Catholic town, but lately a lot of people moved from Kolozsvár to Szászfenes and by now there is a community of about 1,000 Hungarian-speaking Protestants in the town. They decided to build a church and, from what I read, the cost was covered almost in its entirety by the Hungarian government.

The new Hungarian Reformed Church in Florești/Szászfenes / Source: Krónika

On October 2 he talked to the students of Partium Christian University, another university the Hungarian government keeps going in Oradea/Nagyvárad. First, a few words about the Partium or “Részek.” It is a historical and geographical region that consisted of the eastern and northern parts of Hungary proper, i.e. it did not include historical Transylvania. Today it is the westernmost part of Romania, along the Hungarian border. Orbán’s speech was full of boasts about Partium’s strong “hinterland,” meaning Hungary. A few years ago no one dared even to dream about the flowering of Hungary that has been achieved under the leadership of Viktor Orbán. Hungary is no longer a small state but “a middle-sized country of consequence” that can contribute to the peace and well-being of other people in the Carpathian Basin. Those people who are ready to cooperate with the Hungarians will fare well. By now the Slovenians, the Slovaks, and the Serbs have already discovered the benefit, and he “very much hopes that Romania one day will follow their example.”

Orbán even found time to give an interview to the Bihari Napló, serving Nagyvárad and Bihor/Bihar County. Here he openly campaigned for votes for the next national election. The great economic success of Hungary began when the Orbán government decided to give dual citizenship to Hungarians living in the neighboring countries. When “these Hungarians in the diaspora were connected to the Hungarian national circulatory system,” suddenly, the people’s “sense of security began to grow, their vigor increased, and therefore the economy started to grow.” It is for this reason that he encouraged everybody to participate in the national election next spring. Finally, he made another pitch for cooperation between the Visegrád 4 countries and Romania. Surely, he would like to shore up the rather shaky Visegrád Group by having Romania join it. But I’m almost certain that this will not happen in the foreseeable future.

Finally, a few words about the amount of money that has been given to these institutions over the years. In addition to the Partium Christian University, the Hungarian government subsidizes another university, the Sapientia Transylvanian Hungarian University, with faculties in Miercurea Ciuc/ Csíkszereda, Cluj/Kolozsvár, and Târgu Mureș/Marosvásárhely. All Hungarian institutions of higher learning in Romania are financed through the Sapientia Foundation, which since its establishment in 2000 has received 25.6 billion forints from the Hungarian state. According to Magyar Idők, altogether 37 billion forints were given to the Sapientia Foundation from Hungarian sources. The newspaper doesn’t go into details, but I assume that some Hungarian state companies and churches contributed the additional money.

A year ago napi.hu asked for the figures on the amount of money the Hungarian government spends on Hungarian schools operating abroad. The list of colleges and universities is very long, and the amount of money is substantial. Apparently during 2015 they received 608,232,000 forints. Without the subsidies, these Hungarian-language institutions wouldn’t be able to survive.

October 5, 2017